'Unlawful' proctor 'not a bad dude'

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.

University of Otago proctor Dave Scott says he made a mistake, but is not a criminal, after entering a student flat to seize cannabis bongs earlier this month. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
University of Otago proctor Dave Scott says he made a mistake, but is not a criminal, after entering a student flat to seize cannabis bongs earlier this month. Photo: Gerard O'Brien

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.''

chris.morris@odt.co.nz


 

Comments

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A white, middle-aged, privileged male just trying to teach the next generation of white privileged males that the law need not apply to them.....

Did you just victim-blame while being a racist lunatic?

Fascinating conclusion LePeche....where did you see the ethnicity and gender of the flat's occupants? Are they all male? Or white? Or even privileged? No part of your comment was relevant to the story.

Hey LePeche, I can be ageist, sexist and racist in one sentence too. But none of that applies to this instance.
You also make assumptions of privilege without knowing anything about the man because if you did you would not be stating it.

I'm not making any assumptions of privilege, and nor am I being racist. The privilege I refer to is not wealth, it is the privilege of not being brown, of not being poor and not being female. Sadly, New Zealand society treats people differently based on these traits, and this is a fact highlighted in all manner of statistics and studies. It is also a fact recognised internationally whether we chose to ignore it or not.
My comment was based purely on Scott's reported actions, intentions, and the audacity to think that helping students avoid having to deal with the police is an acceptable justification, rather than a problem in of itself. Personally I think it would be incredibly wrong for the students of Dunedin to have this problem of bias and privilege reinforced by there not being legal consequences for Scott's actions.

You are hoisted by your own petard you are making every assumption based on studies (verifiable or not) that deal in general statistics, not on a case by case basis, ergo assuming a person had the audacity to be born white and male gives them privilege is a biased view . You also conveyed this is teaching the white privileged students they are also not accountable to the law. Do you know the students involved were they all white males. If not, if they were brown, young and female therefore not privileged in your world view would the Proctor's actions justified for that demographic. you define the world in your own group think view. I know many white males born in this country into very low socio- economic crime ridden neighbourhoods with violent and unfortunate family lives that would laugh at your idea they were privileged by the fact they are male and white . The Proctor's actions whether you agree with them or not were not motivated by him being white nor his age group, nor his imagined privilege for just existing .

Jails are full of really nice people. Some inmates aren't so nice. But what they all have in common is the fact they broke the law.
This bloke had no right to break into peoples homes. Full stop. He then stole items from those homes. No arguments on either of these facts.
I really don't care how nice a person people say he is. I don't care if he loves little kittens, cares for lost puppies or paints pictures of puffy clouds in his spare time.

His actions have proven he is not suitable as a pseudo law officer for the university. His ongoing attempts to justify his criminal behaviour simply prove that he doesn't have the right level of personal judgment to do his job properly.

''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.'' This carries zero weight when you're begging a police officer for leniency or standing before a judge. [he insisted one error of judgement did not make him a bad proctor or a criminal] umm, hasn't he been doing this since 2016 on a minimum of what is now known to be 4 occasions? One error of judgement has certainly made thousands of other NZ'ers into criminals so why not?
The university is making a big mistake in not censuring his actions. Breaking the law is not okay.

Sorry he overstepped his authority even if it had good intentions too bad he needs to be held accountable for his actions. Just in the same way those who had stuff taken need to be held accountable if the items were used for drugs we will never know because the evidence he took is now dirty and can't be used against the renters..

I Would be keen to see some of the parents feedback if they knew it was there little darling getting high. That ofcourse wont happen. Let’s not rock the boat. I believe
these parents would crawl on their knees and thank the proctor, don’t you think?

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