Police investigating the death of a young woman at an overcrowded Dunedin party will be considering whether the organisers could be liable for criminal nuisance, legal experts say.
But they said any potential charges would be difficult to pursue because of the chaotic nature of the event.
Sophia Crestani, 19, died on Saturday night at a Dunedin property known as The Manor after reportedly being crushed by panicked partygoers trying to escape the second storey of the house.
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Inspector Wil Black said yesterday police were still trying to form a detailed timeline of what happened. To ensure they spoke with as many people as possible, officers would be at the University of Otago so students could speak with them there.
University of Auckland law professor Bill Hodge said it was an unprecedented case and the police investigation was likely to consider more unusual parts of criminal law.
Criminal nuisance, which is punishable by up to a year in jail, was one of the areas they would consider.
"It's a catch-all. It's a box into which you put things that don't fit very well any place else," Hodge said.
The charge was laid against the organiser of a cycling event in Christchurch in 2001 in which a competitor died after being hit by a car. The organiser was accused of not doing enough to tell competitors the road was closed, but was later acquitted.
Napier man Thomas MacDonald was charged with criminal nuisance in 2015 after a party he organised became overcrowded and violent, though that was later withdrawn.
Hodge said police would also be looking at provisions in the Crimes Act which related to "duty of persons doing dangerous acts", "in charge of dangerous things", or "avoiding omissions dangerous to life".
"If one of those things is breached and it leads to a death, then you might have an argument, at least, of manslaughter. Again, the police would be considering that."
AUT law professor Warren Brookbanks said a criminal nuisance charge required police to prove a person had knowledge that what they were doing would endanger public safety or lives.
"There is a knowledge element. That will be the thing that is difficult to prove in a context like this because the whole thing happened very suddenly when the students panicked.
"Questions of what people knew or what could have been anticipated would be very much in the balance if the matter came to court."
He said manslaughter charges were highly unlikely because it would be difficult to prove individual liability.
Property law specialist Joanna Pidgeon said tenants were responsible for the actions of others in their property. But charges under residential property laws related more to damage and interference with privacy and comfort, not injury or death.
Black said people had come forward yesterday to speak with police, but said it was early in the investigation. "People are still stunned."
The Manor's occupants have decided not to return to the flat, instead accepting the University's offer of alternative accommodation.