Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Benson-Pope's defence

Although David Benson-Pope was refused permission to make a personal statement to the House about the existence of the complaint, elements of his defence can be seen in today's ministerial answers. For example, during question 3:
Dr Don Brash: Is the Prime Minister calling the former principal of Bayfield High School a liar—for what other reason could there be for the differences between his account and that of the Hon David Benson-Pope?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, because the former principal has not said he ever showed the Minister a letter of complaint. Had National members been prepared to hear the personal explanation, they could have had more issues made plain.
This, by the standards of Clark's excuses to date, is remarkably weak. Benson-Pope's original statement was that there had never been a complaint against him. Now Clark is suggesting that because Benson-Pope was not shown the letter of complaint, his statement remains true. Firstly Clark is blurring the distinction between a formal complaint and a complaint of any sort. The existence of the letter of complaint is evidence that a complaint was made against Benson-Pope. The next element of defence is awareness - because Benson-Pope supposedly had not seen the letter of complaint, he was not aware that there had been a formal complaint. But his original statement was a denial that any sort of complaint existed. So when Benson-Pope was being questioned about his conduct on the school camp, are we seriously meant to believe that he didn't realize at the time that somebody had made a complaint?

Benson-Pope was told of complaint

Things have gotten very bleak for David Benson-Pope. The Principal of his school in 1997 has confirmed that he discussed a complaint about Benson-Pope's conduct with him at the time. This contradicts Benson-Pope's statement that he had never been the subject of any complaint.

Benson-Pope's response?
Late last night Mr Benson-Pope said through a spokesman: "That doesn't accord with information we have received from the school."
Why couldn't he use his own memory? And if he can't remember important things like that then he shouldn't be handling ministerial portfolios.

Monday, February 27, 2006

New allegations against Benson-Pope

Over the weekend, fresh allegations were made by the Herald on Sunday and Investigate Magazine about David Benson-Pope, namely that he burst into the showers where female students were changing. These were not uncovered in the police enquiry because the allegations are said to have taken place in 1997 whereas the police only interviewed his students in 1982.

What makes these charges serious is that three of complainants have come forward to be named while the school confirmed today that a formal complaint was made about Benson-Pope's conduct back in 1997. The seriousness of Benson-Pope's predicament can be seen by the fact that he's gone to ground and the Prime Minister is busy providing spin on his behalf.

The big problem for Benson-Pope is that he had denied in Parliament that any complaints had been made against him about his teaching conduct. Since that is now known to be false and intentionally making false statements is grounds for resignation, his excuse explanation is that he was aware of the complaint. I find this difficult to credit even without considering what happened to his previous denials. The result of the complaint was that Benson-Pope was found to have acted in accordance with school policy (which probably means there was nothing explicitly prohibiting his conduct) and so the school policy was changed. So Benson-Pope expects us to believe that a complaint was laid, an investigation carried out into his conduct and the policy changed but nobody had bothered to inform him about the existence of the complaint? When he was asked for his side of the story or when he was told of the change in school policy (he was teaching at the school for a further two years), it didn't occur to him that somebody might have made a complaint?

Monday, February 20, 2006

The David Benson-Pope affair comes in from the Cold

David Benson-Pope is in the news again about allegations that he made students stand out in the cold on school camps. To be fair, these are hardly allegations because David unrepentently admitted them in a police interview. I even noted it at the time. The reason why it wasn't a big issue then was that Benson-Pope was already in deep trouble for selectively leaking portions of the report favourable to him and then denying that he had actually done so.

It's bit late to be raising the issue now in my opinion but one could use the issue to explore our government's attitude to a certain CIA interrogation method:
5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.
If that's too cruel for Al Qa'eda then surely it's too barbarous to be used against schoolkids?

A blast from the past

The Press has a front page article about a major security breach on its computer. The interesting thing for me is the identity of the student that found it, one Kyle Millar.

For those of you that have never attended Canterbury University, Kyle Millar has been around for a while. His involvement in student politics at the expense of his studies was so notorious that CANTA once wondered whether if he had passed all of the papers that he failed, he would have obtained a degree. That was over a decade ago. Since then he had been banned from Canterbury for two years in 2001 for putting up unauthorized election posters and for "reckless behaviour culminating in an incident with a truck carrying several thousand dollars' worth of glass". And now he's back again. And attending summer school. Sad.

New Green Co-Leader Candidate

A former MP has announced his candidacy for the position of Co-Leader for the Greens that was left vacant after Rod Donald's sudden death. The candidate is none other than Mike Ward:

So much for appealing to a younger generation.