Saturday, 25 February 2006

DBP denies fresh set of allegations

Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope can expect a rough ride in Parliament next week, after a fresh series of allegation against him.

The latest round began with Investigate Magazine's cover story last week, which detailed further incidents involving the MP, while he was a teacher at Dunedin's Bayfield High School.

The allegations, which were part of the Police investigation into the "Tennisgate" case last year, included an incident where Benson-Pope forced 14 year old schoolgirls stand outside in the cold in just their underwear and nighties, while he watched for up to an hour. The incident allegedly happened during a school camp at Tautuku in 1982.

Witnesses told Police the former Associate Minister of Education was a "sleazy" teacher... "the girls... felt he was always staring at our legs beneath the desks... he seemed to thrive on it"...

PM Clark again backed Benson-Pope following Investigate's story last week, saying there was nothing new in the claims. However, over a hundred former Bayfield High School students responded to the magazine's article, backing the allegations and providing fresh ones.

The new information could force Police to reopen the case into Benson-Pope. It was closed last year, with Police declaring they had found a "prime facie" case against the Minster, but had decided not to lay charges because of the historical nature of the allegations.

The allegations, detailed further on Investigate's website include:

* A female student who failed to count to ten in German claims she was slapped across her thigh with a ruler by David Benson-Pope, leaving a red mark... "I seriously would like to have him in a room and tied to a chair so I could knock the living shit out of him! To be quite honest."

* Allegations that Benson-Pope walked in unannounced on up to 25 girls, getting changed after a mud run at camp... "[he] lingered, staring, for 30 seconds... [the girls were ] screaming and yelling and telling him to get out"... "Me and my parents made a formal complaint about it, but nothing was done about it."

* That the former-teacher "watched naked schoolgirls while they showered, after bursting in on them in the shower block at a school camp in 1997".

* Other students backing up the 'outside in their nighties' story... "The punishment was for us guys to strip down to our grots, and stand outside along with some of the other girls... one [of the teachers] was definitely David Benson-Pope..."

Opposition parties are expected to give DBP and the Government a very hard time next week, and the question must be asked as to whether the continuing spotlight on the Minster makes him a liability in Cabinet... especially following on from the quote released from Mark Unsworth's book on MPs... Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope: "Regarded as a pompous prat by some colleagues."

* Full details on Investigate Magazine's website (and I assume their next few editions?!)
* Herald on Sunday: New questions for Benson-Pope

* Rodney Hide: David Benson-Pope Number -- I have lost count

* Sir Humphrey's: New DBP Allegations
* Whale Oil Beef Hooked: Investigate releases new DBP allegations

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