Cambridge law student who burned £20 note in front of homeless man KEEPS university place

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By Thomas Connelly on

Ronald Coyne reveals he’s been threatened with chemical attacks in apology letter to peers

A University of Cambridge law student who sparked outrage after attempting to burn a £20 note in front of a homeless man will not be expelled.

The prestigious university came under pressure to remove Ronald Coyne after Snapchat footage of him goading a homeless man while dressed in white tie went viral in February (screenshots below).

But Coyne has kept his place at Cambridge’s Pembroke College after penning an apology letter (in full below), admitting he had abused his “privilege”.

Circulated by email to his college peers, Coyne — who was a fresher at the time and claims to have received threats of “violence” and “chemical attacks” following the incident — continued:

I made a terrible mistake, and I quite rightly faced disciplinary action for it. I have addressed the root causes of my behaviour by attending awareness classes, relating to both alcohol and social inclusion.

The decision comes despite a petition calling for Coyne’s removal, which garnered over 23,000 signatures.

A spokesperson for Pembroke College told Legal Cheek: “Disciplinary action has been taken, but of course the college cannot comment on the outcome of individual disciplinary cases. However, we recognise that this incident has resulted in understandable concern.”

Stressing that the college places “great value” on how it treats others, the spokesperson continued:

Following the incident, Pembroke students raised more than £1,000 by for the local rough-sleeper community, and across Cambridge there has been a significant rise in student volunteering with rough-sleeper charities locally.

The note burning, which we discussed at length during a live Facebook stream, divided readers’ opinions at the time.

One suggested that Coyne — who was promptly dismissed from the Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA) — was just a “young guy who did a silly thing”, while another reader commented: “his actions are those of a sociopath.” Another, perhaps rightly, said: “bye bye training contract.”

Read Ronald Coyne’s letter in full:

Dear all,

As you may recall, earlier this year it was widely reported in the media that I attempted to set alight to a £20 note on Bridge Street in Cambridge. Until now, there had been an ongoing disciplinary process on a University and college level which had meant I couldn’t respond publicly. Now that these processes have concluded, I am setting out to try to remedy some of the hurt caused by my actions. As one of those steps, I want to take the opportunity to apologise.

My actions were wrong and without thought or consideration. I abused my privilege as a student at such a great university, and behaved in a way which is totally contrary to the values of the university and of its students. I acknowledge that my behaviour put the entire university in a negative light, and for that I am sorry. For the effect that my behaviour had on you as a community, I am also sorry.

I am extremely fortunate to have a place at Cambridge. My experience of Cambridge was of a place which is positive, accepting, and friendly. Yet on that evening, I forgot what it really meant to study at Cambridge. I misrepresented what it meant to be a student here. The gift of a great education should be a tool to enrich society, not an excuse to debase it. I made a terrible mistake, and I quite rightly faced disciplinary action for it. I have addressed the root causes of my behaviour by attending awareness classes, relating to both alcohol and social inclusion.

I am truly sorry for the upset I have caused my fellow students. I cannot begin to express my heartfelt remorse for the guilt by association you all faced, on many levels. When the media commentary flared up, strangers sent piles of abusive mail to my family home threatening me with violence, and chemical attacks. I received some sympathetic letters and emails from people who thought that the online abuse went too far. To those people, I am still grateful. I would like to end by repeating my deep regret at the offence and hurt caused by my actions, and asking for a second chance.

Ronald Coyne.

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