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TIMELINE: Benson-Pope career controversy

Published: 10:01AM Friday July 27, 2007 Source: ONE News

David Benson-Pope career has been pock-marked by various allegations and controversy:


May 12 - Allegations are made in parliament by Act leader Rodney Hide and National's Judith Collins about David Benson-Pope, then Associate Education Minister. They claim while teaching at Dunedin's Bayfield High School he bullied students including accusations that he tied a student's hands and jammed a tennis ball in his mouth as a punishment and that he gave one student a bleeding nose. Five former students allege the bullying. Benson-Pope said the allegations were "ridiculous and I refute them".

May 16 - Benson-Pope is stood down from cabinet while the allegations are investigated.
June - Benson-Pope resumes his cabinet duties as Fisheries Minister and Associate Environment Minister - but not his education role.

October - In Helen Clark's new cabinet Benson-Pope is given the Social Development and Employment, and Environment portfolios.

November - Police announce they will not be prosecuting Benson-Pope following their investigation. They found there was a prima facie case to answer but that a prosecution over the incidents was not in the public interest.

December - Police release the file on the Benson-Pope investigation. The file, which is hundreds of pages thick, includes statements by pupils from the school - nine of which recalled the incident when Benson Pope put a tennis ball into a student's mouth.  However 18 former members of the 1982 class said they either couldn't recall the incident, or did not believe it happened.


February - Investigate Magazine and the Herald on Sunday make more claims against Benson-Pope in his time as a teacher.  Four former pupils make allegations about events at a school camp in the South Island in 1997, including a claim that Benson-Pope entered girls' dormitories and a shower block without warning. Benson-Pope dismissed the claims.

February 21 - Helen Clark backs Benson-Pope, releasing a letter of complaint over the incident which the school had on file. The document confirms a parent claimed that Benson-Pope entered an ablution block while female pupils were showering and told them to get out, and that he walked into the girls' dormitory while they were dressing and talked to them. A further document shows the school responded by modifying its policies. The school's response also says that there was no question of anyone entering the showers.

February 28 - Benson-Pope offers an apology in parliament to the former students who publicly expressed concerns about his behaviour as a teacher. Though he told parliament he remains convinced his behaviour as a teacher was not inappropriate.

March - Benson-Pope fronts the media, saying he does not consider himself a liability to the government and is determined to continue in his job. The Labour MP says he has not lied or deliberately misled parliament or the public when answering allegations about his time as a teacher at Dunedin's Bayfield High School. He says people who believe he has been involved in wrongdoing should take their evidence to the police.


July 20 - A row erupts over the sacking of Madeleine Setchell as a media adviser at the Environment Ministry. Setchell made it known that her partner, Kevin Taylor, works as press secretary for National Party leader John Key.

A report by the State Services Commission revealed a Beehive employee in Environment Minister David Benson-Pope's office called the ministry to question the relationship, prompting Setchell and the ministry to part ways three days after she was hired.

National says it was a politically motivated sacking and claims Benson-Pope must have known about the phone call made from parliament to the ministry.

The State Services Commission says the involvement of the minister's office was not inappropriate.

July 21 - Benson-pope is not commenting on the matter. A report says the minister was briefed on the matter despite Benson-Pope saying just days earlier that he wasn't aware of the ''details'' of the case. 

Prime Minister Helen Clark says she doesn't believe Benson-Pope's office over-stepped the mark.

July 23 - Benson-Pope speaks out about the sacking. He blames his staff member for the phone call. When ONE News asked Benson-Pope if he knew the phone call was being made he said, "No, I did not. Nor did I ask for it to be made." He said he was not happy that the phone call was made but it was "a matter of fact right now."

July 26 - Benson Pope admits he did tell Environment Ministry CEO Hugh Logan he would not be comfortable working with Madeleine Setchell.

July 27 - The minister resigns, despite telling a ONE News reporter a day earlier that he would be doing no such thing. PM Helen Clark, who had stood by Benson-Pope reviewed transcripts of his answers to media questions and said it was in his interviews with the media in which Benson-Pope's answers were inconsistent.

October - Benson-Pope puts his name forward for re-selection for Labour and is said to have the support of his electorate. Prime Minister Helen would not be drawn on her opinion over Benson-Pope's decision.  However, she said the Labour Party could see a whole lot of new faces by the next election.