Page last updated at 07:18 GMT, Tuesday, 8 April 2008 08:18 UK

'Cottaging' closes campus toilets

By Johnny Caldwell
BBC News

Queen's University Belfast
The toilet block is in Queen's main library (tower to the left and back)

A male toilet block at Queen's University in Belfast has been closed for more than two years over fears it was being used for 'cottaging'.

Cottaging is a slang term for gay sex in a public toilet or using such a facility to arrange sex elsewhere.

The university even considered installing CCTV in the toilet block in the basement of its main library.

The final straw was an e-mail sent to some students from an external bulletin board, advertising the 'venue'.

"I understand that this problem has been going on a number of years," said a member of Queen's staff in an e-mail from March 2006 obtained by BBC News.

"I would suggest that we lock the toilets at night, but I have heard that this also happens during the day. CCTV could be the answer, but we would have to be careful about where we locate cameras."

Another staff e-mail read: "An e-mail was sent to a number of QUB students advertising the basement of the main library tower as a rendezvous point for gay men.

Spot checks

"There have been suspicions of similar misuse of these facilities over the years and they have been closed for periods and spot checked by security staff at other times.

"Since this incident we have kept the toilets locked but are looking at a longer term management strategy. We are considering removing some of the cubicles."

In February of this year, following an article in a student newspaper, the Gown, the university denied that the closure was linked to concerns over cottaging.

Toilet sign
The toilet block has been closed for more than two years

After BBC News obtained the above e-mails and others, the university released the following statement: "The toilets within the university's main library remain closed for a number of reasons.

"These include, among other things, an over-supply of toilets within the library building; their poor state of repair; and the university's plans to provide improved toilet facilities within the new Anthony O'Reilly Library (currently under construction)."

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