Exclusive: No date set for George Boyne’s return
South Wales Police tell Gaudie: “we are investigating”
By: Jake Roslin and Anttoni Numminen
Penarth Beach Promenade close to Boyne's second home - Photograph: Sunset in Penarth by Dai
In a statement to The Gaudie, South Wales Police have today (5 October) confirmed they are now "investigating the circumstances of Professor Boyne’s travel" to his second home near Cardiff on Friday.
The Gaudie has also learned that the University's Principal and Vice-Chancellor is to remain in Wales for an indefinite time, for medical reasons.
The Police advise that should their investigation into Boyne "deem the travel to have been a breach of current Welsh Government regulations, appropriate action – consistent with our approach throughout the pandemic – will be taken."
This follows a statement issued to students yesterday by Senior Governor Esther Roberton intended to pre-empt ‘media interest’ in Boyne's approximately 500-mile road trip, which he made with his wife on Friday. The couple is now staying in a property they own in Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan. Boyne admitted the property is also "occupied by our son".
"The primary purpose for visiting the area is for a medical appointment and he would not be in the area at this time otherwise." - Aberdeen University
The University today advised The Gaudie that the Principal has not yet seen the medical consultant he described in yesterday's statement, but will be doing so "this week". A spokesperson told us that "the duration of the stay is dependent on the outcome of the appointment." They also confirmed the "primary" purpose of the trip was medical.
There has been intense media interest in Boyne's trip since the statement was issued at approximately 5.30pm yesterday. The story is now being covered by all major Scottish media and Welsh news outlets.
The Vale of Glamorgan is one of 15 counties in Wales subject to local Covid-19 lockdown. The Welsh Government have issued specific rules for the area which came into force only last Monday, 28 September, four days before the Principal arrived at his second home in the seaside town, which is a short distance from Cardiff.
Screengrab: Vale of Glamorgan Council
The Guidance states "those living outside the area should not enter it if at all possible". Although they concede "people living outside the Vale of Glamorgan Council area who have a medical appointment inside the area" are allowed to attend it, "if the appointment is non-urgent, we would ask you to postpone it".
In the surprise Sunday apology, emailed by Governor Roberton to all Aberdeen University students, Boyne advised he had "checked the position with South Wales Police and have been advised that they will not be taking any action. However, I sincerely apologise for any concern this may cause." However, in a statement to the Gaudie, South Wales Police said they were ‘investigating the circumstances’ and would take ‘appropriate action’ if necessary.
"Should the investigation deem the travel to have been a breach of current Welsh Government regulations, appropriate action – consistent with our approach throughout the pandemic – will be taken." - South Wales Police
Students and others on social media have questioned the necessity of the Principal's cross-UK visit during the continuing Covid-19 pandemic. There are also mounting criticisms as to the duration of Boyne's absence as leader of the University at the start of a semester which has seen ‘unprecedented’ challenges to teaching and other University operational issues due to the pandemic.
Boyne's salary in 2018/19 was £250,000 plus benefits worth a further £20,000 including subsidised accommodation in a house on campus. Prior to being appointed Principal and Vice-Chancellor two years ago, Boyne had spent 23 years at Cardiff University, with roles in the Business School and later in senior management.
A University spokesperson told The Gaudie: "The primary purpose for visiting the area is for a medical appointment and he would not be in the area at this time otherwise."
Boyne's trip comes after students were warned of "robust action" including possible expulsion or suspension from the University for breaching lockdown rules.
More to follow.