Otago University proctor admits he was wrong to enter flats and remove bongs

After a growing student protest over the Otago University proctor entering at least one flat uninvited and removing bongs – legal to own but illegal to use with cannabis – the proctor Dave Scott has fessed up today.

ODT:  ‘I was wrong’ – Proctor

University of Otago proctor Dave Scott has acknowledged he was wrong to enter a flat while no-one was home and confiscate bongs, but says he doesn’t think his actions make him a criminal.

“I’m a human and I have made an error of judgement on this occasion [and] I’ve apologised to the flat in question this afternoon for what I did.

“I have made a mistake here and I am willing to learn from it.”

Asked if he broke the law, he said he was not above scrutiny and acknowledged he was wrong.

“Does that make me a criminal? I don’t believe so.

“This was a situation that could have been dealt with differently.”

However this could be a confession to committing a criminal act.

Vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne said the university still had “full confidence” in Mr Scott, saying he had assured her he would not repeat the mistake.

“I have discussed the proctor’s actions with him and he agrees this will not happen again.

“In my experience of the proctor on so many occasions he always has the students’ best interests at heat, and has worked extremely hard to ensure students are treated fairly while they are here.”

But there is a lack of confidence amongst students. Stuff (before the confession and apology): Private prosecution pending against University of Otago’s bong-taking proctor

Thousands of dollars have been pledged to mount a private prosecution against the bong-taking University of Otago proctor.

The tertiary institution is standing by Dave Scott, a former police officer, who removed drug-taking equipment from at least four student flats.

Hundreds have signed a petition calling for Scott’s immediate resignation though, and a private prosecution against him is pending.

Whakamana Cannabis Museum curator Abe Gray said a cannabis supporter known to him had pledged $25,000 to take a private prosecution.

Otago law professor Andrew Geddis: Hey, proctor, leave our bongs alone: How Otago’s ‘campus cop’ is breaking the law

We start with the fact that the proctor simply is a university employee who, while holding some disciplinary powers over students, enjoys no more legal right to visit their residences, search them and seize property than does any other citizen. And, as other legal academics have told the ODT, those legal rights simply do not extend to going into someone’s house to take what you think may be evidence of criminal behaviour.

Or, to put it more bluntly, what the proctor did was clearly unlawful and at least potentially criminal. The fact he did so with proclaimed good intentions does not change this conclusion.

In my view, there’s no reasonable argument to be made that students consuming cannabis in their own living room has “a sufficient nexus to the legitimate concerns of the university” to justify the code’s application. Simply put, while smoking cannabis in your own home may (stupidly) still be illegal, doing so is none of the university’s business and so the proctor has no disciplinary authority over those who choose to consume.

But here’s the problem. If the proctor is going to act as a paternalistic morals police over what students do in their own homes, then students really need to ask whether they want that form of governance over their lives. And if they don’t, then they ought to take action to prevent it.

Because the proctor (and all other university employees) only may enter onto student property under the general “implied licence” that applies to all visitors. This is the general legal presumption that an occupier will permit people to walk up to their front door in order to communicate with them

However, that implied licence may be expressly revoked at any time. If the occupier tells someone (or, even the world at large) “you may not come onto my property”, then the presumed legal right to visit disappears.

So, if students do not want the proctor (or other university employees) to know what they are doing in their homes, much less intervene by taking things he disapproves of, then they can tell him that. An email to his office informing him that he is not permitted to enter a particular flat’s grounds. A notice in the flat’s front window telling him that he (or other university employees) cannot be on the property.

There have been signs of a ‘keep away sign’ campaign, but that could be dependant on whether the proctor makes a solid commitment to respect the private dwellings and property of students.

 

 

 

Abe Grey promoting Cannabis in Mt Albert

The Cannabis Party (previously known as the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party) has announced that Abe Gray will contest the My Albert by-election.

I think this is a smart move. This is a good opportunity to push Jacinda Ardern and Julie Anne Genter and the Labour and Green parties on how serious they are about supporting cannabis law reform, or at least whether they would support and enable a referendum to let the people decide.

The Cannabis Party launches Mt Albert by-election campaign with Radio Hauraki personality Abe Gray announced as the party’s candidate

The Cannabis Party is entering the race for the Mt Albert by-election after radio personality Abe Gray threw his hat in the ring.

Gray is a well known radio DJ with a weekly slot on Radio Hauraki’s popular breakfast show, hosted by Matt Heath and Jeremy Wells.

Gray is leading the charge for a binding referendum on cannabis laws in New Zealand,  which was vocally promoted by the late Helen Kelly.

He worked closely with Helen Kelly to draft the specific legislation required to create the binding referendum, prior to her death. However, no MPs in Parliament have adopted the legislation.

Gray questions whether the Greens and Labour are serious about cannabis law reform, given they turned their back on Helen Kelly’s referendum legislation.

The by-election gives Gray the opportunity to keep questioning them through the by-election campaign, as I’m sure he will do.

“A binding referendum on the questions of medical and recreational cannabis is my top priority,” he said.

“It should be the democratic right of all New Zealanders to have their say on this important issue.”

Gray promised to submit Helen Kelly’s referendum legislation to the private member’s ballot on day-one if he is elected to Parliament.

Gray’s main opponent will be the media if they refuse to give him equal coverage (Ardern is already getting media favouritism).

If the media decides that cannabis has headline potential it could work in the Cannabis Party’s favour. Even if Ardern does cruise to victory as predicted the campaign is a good opportunity to highlight an issue that New Zealand politicians seem to be paying lip service to at best, while many other countries are seriously responding to social and health pressures on cannabis.

Gray is a good choice for the Cannabis Party, he has a lot of campaign and public activism experience.