The University of Otago has called in an independent barrister to review complaints about inappropriate behaviour at controversial second-year law camps.

A university spokeswoman confirmed yesterday the independent review would be carried out by David Sim, of Downie Stewart Lawyers, in Dunedin.

The review was expected to take months and focus on past camps organised by the Society of Otago University Law Students (Souls).

Both students and staff would be interviewed, but "this is not an investigation into any particular student or staff member", the spokeswoman said.


"It is a review of these events, with the goal of promoting a safe, inclusive and fun university culture into the future.''

The camps hit the headlines last month following complaints of excessive drinking, jelly wrestling and inappropriate behaviour by some students.

Professor Mark Henaghan stepped down as dean earlier this month. Photo / Peter McIntosh
Professor Mark Henaghan stepped down as dean earlier this month. Photo / Peter McIntosh

The former dean of the university's faculty of law, Professor Mark Henaghan, who stepped down as dean earlier this month, was said to have been present as a guest at times during the camps.

Yesterday, the university spokeswoman said staff and students were informed on Friday of the plan to conduct an independent review.

"No timeframe on completion of the review has been set at this point. We hope, however, this review might be concluded in coming months."

Anyone with information, concerns or complaints about prior law camps was encouraged to "come forward", she said.

No other complaints had been received since the camps hit the headlines in March, but the university had received 11 "communications" about them since then, she said.

None of them were "expressed as a formal complaint'', she said.


The university would make no further comment about "any individuals, student or staff, until this review is complete''.

"To do so would be highly inappropriate and could be prejudicial to the result.''

Henaghan has declined repeated requests for an interview since last month, but in a written statement on April 6 - his last day as dean - said his early departure was "not related to student law camps''.

He planned to remain as a researcher and lecturer until leaving for Auckland as scheduled at the end of the year, but wanted to give his replacement, former deputy dean Prof Jessica Palmer, "a fair and decent amount of time'' to "learn the ropes''.

Palmer declined to comment yesterday.

Sim, the barrister set to carry out the review, could also not be contacted late yesterday, but a partner at his law firm, Jim Guest, said it would not be appropriate to comment.