Self-defence training for students after sex attacks

Students took to the streets as part of a 'Reclaim The Night' protest last month
Students took to the streets as part of a 'Reclaim The Night' protest last month
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SELF-DEFENCE training would be offered to students under proposals to improve their personal security following a spate of late-night attacks around the Meadows.

A motion lodged with the city council suggests providing defence classes and rape alarms to help reduce the threat of would-be assailants or to even fend off attackers.

The move comes after police issued a warning to residents not to walk through the Meadows alone at night in the wake of a series of alleged rapes and sexual assaults in the park and Causewayside.

A 41-year-old man has since been charged with a pair of sexual assaults in the Meadows area, but those responsible for the rape of a 19-year-old woman and a sex attack on a female jogger in the park remain at large.

The new proposals – submitted by Councillor Paul Godzik, ward member for the Meadows and Morningside – notes the “high level of community concern” over the sex crimes and applauds the work of Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) in promoting schemes to boost personal safety.

The motion urges the council to encourage taking appropriate security measures, including self-defence classes and personal alarms, and suggests an urgent investigation into levels of lighting in and around the park.

Increased police patrols and dialogue with student bodies were also mooted.

Emma Meehan, vice- president for societies and activities at Edinburgh University, who has helped to launch safety schemes including the late-night student chaperone service “walking bus”, said: “We would be happy to work with council to develop long-term measures for students. With regards to self-defence training, we have been looking into it but what we have to be careful about is that we address the heart of the problem. A person being attacked should be able to defend themselves, but the most important thing is to stop this happening in the first place.”

Her colleague, Stuart Tooley, external convenor at EUSA, said he hoped any collaboration with the council would generate long-term solutions to safety issues at the Meadows. He said: “The schemes we have set up have been difficult because we need a lot of volunteers. The idea that the council could come in to help is brilliant.”

Sarah Sandrow, chair of Marchmont and Sciennes Community Council, welcomed the motion and said there had been an “atmosphere of concern” among residents in light of the attacks.