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The ''unlawful'' actions of University of Otago proctor Dave Scott, who entered a student flat to confiscate three cannabis bongs, are part of a worrying trend by the institution to extend its reach beyond the campus, a public law expert says.
Mr Scott fronted media in Dunedin yesterday to apologise for his actions, after it was revealed he entered a flat on Leith St North about three weeks ago to seize cannabis-smoking implements.
The bongs had been left out, in full view, by the flat's occupants, who were either away from the flat or asleep upstairs at the time.
Mr Scott - a former Dunedin police senior sergeant - said yesterday he had students' interests at heart when he acted, but ''with the benefit of hindsight'' had ''got this wrong''.
As calls for Mr Scott to resign mounted online, he insisted one error of judgement did not make him a bad proctor or a criminal.
''I know I've got this wrong and I'm willing to learn from it. Does that make me a criminal? I don't believe so.''
He was defended by university Vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne, who in a statement said she still had ''full confidence'' in Mr Scott, who had assured her ''this will not happen again''.
Otago University Students Association president Caitlin Barlow-Groome also wanted Mr Scott to stay on, saying his actions were ''completely unacceptable'' but should not cost him his job.
The sentiment was shared by one of the students who lost their bong - a type of cannabis-smoking pipe - after Mr Scott's uninvited visit.
The student, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the Otago Daily Times the proctor had ''broken the law'' but he and his five flatmates were ''happy to move on''.
''We honestly don't reckon he's a bad dude, and he does his job well,'' the student said.
University of Victoria public law lecturer Eddie Clark said Mr Scott's actions appeared ''unlawful'', but were also the latest example of the university reaching beyond the campus to police students.
The institution had rolled out CCTV cameras on public streets, and hit the headlines in May when hundreds of copies of a ''menstruation issue'' by student magazine Critic Te Arohi were removed from stands by Campus Watch.
The university ''seems to see itself as policeman of student conduct across the city'', without the ''legal authority'' to do so, he said.
''If they were ... smoking a bong in class, or on university property, that's another thing ... [but] it's a fundamental principle in our legal system that the Government cannot do anything to private citizens without legal authority,'' Mr Clark said.
Prof Hayne rejected the concern yesterday, saying students enjoyed ''unprecedented'' freedom in Dunedin and the roll-out of CCTV cameras ''is not in the same bracket as the other two''.
''Two unrelated events do not make a trend.''
However, Critic has also reported a second case of Mr Scott entering a flat to confiscate bongs, while OUSA recreation officer Josh Smythe said he had been told of four examples of the proctor wandering into student houses.
Mr Scott told media yesterday he had visited ''countless'' flats since 2016 but could not recall a similar incident, although he had seized bongs from back yards before.
He would accept any decision by the university to launch an employment investigation or by a member of the public to file a police complaint.
A police spokesman confirmed none had been received yesterday. Cannabis advocate Abe Gray said he had received a $25,000 pledge from an anonymous donor for a private prosecution.
He was yet to decide his next move, but a student protest was being planned for Friday.
A Change.org online petition, calling for Mr Scott to resign, was launched by OUSA recreation officer Josh Smythe. It had more than 1200 signatures by late yesterday. Ms Barlow-Groome said neither she nor OUSA supported it.
Mr Scott said he had visited the Leith St North flat yesterday to apologise, but stressed his actions had aimed to deal with the students while helping them avoid ''far-reaching consequences''.
Students' parents expected his pastoral care he said, and he had worked ''tirelessly'' in the role since 2016.
He would ''own'' his mistake, learn from it, and had no plans to resign.
''If they're calling for my head, that's their prerogative, but I think ... one error doesn't mean you're not a good proctor.''