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Former coalition minister charged with theft

Last updated 00:00 15/11/2007
CHARGED: Former Government Minister Phillida Bunkle.

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Former Government minister Phillida Bunkle has been charged with theft after allegedly shoplifting a bottle of wine and two packets of coffee from a supermarket in Paraparaumu.

Police allege Bunkle, the former Alliance MP who surrendered her ministerial portfolios in 2001 after being embroiled in a housing and allowances dispute, was caught with a bottle of Stone's green ginger wine worth $15.20 and two blocks of Fagg's coffee each worth $7.19 in her bag, when trying to leave Pak'n Save supermarket on October 16. She is believed to have had about $200 cash with her.

Bunkle is believed to have paid for a bag of confectionery and nuts and was apprehended as she started to walk out of the store with the wine and coffee in her bag.

Supermarket owner Peter Anderson confirmed a middle-aged woman was apprehended for shoplifting that day, but he was unable to provide any further information.

Ms Bunkle's lawyer Michael Scott said no plea had yet been entered and it would be inappropriate for him to comment on whether she would defend the charge.

However, it was possible a plea indication would be given on Tuesday next week, when the matter was next before the court.

He would not comment on Ms Bunkle's whereabouts but said she would not be required to appear until the case was heard before a judge.

At the moment it was still on the court registrar's list.

Former Alliance MP and Bunkle colleague Liz Gordon said she understood Ms Bunkle had been doing work in England since she exited politics in 2002.

At Bunkle's house in Reikorangi yesterday there was a 'for sale' sign at the gate of the two-hectare property, which is valued at between $500,000 and $600,000.

Bunkle appeared in Porirua District Court on October 23 and though she is on the court list to appear again next week, she is not expected to appear because she is in England and not expected back before Christmas. She is believed to have lived at the Reikorangi property for about 10 years.

Her lawyer, Michael Scott, said it was inappropriate for him to comment at this stage.

Bunkle entered Parliament in 1999 under the Alliance Party banner and quickly became a minister outside Cabinet.

She quit her ministerial portfolios, including consumer affairs and associate economic development, in 2001 after revelations she had been claiming a parliamentary accommodation allowance - available to out-of-town MPs - while contesting the Wellington Central seat.

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Though cleared by an inquiry, she was not reinstated as a minister and was relegated to the back benches.

She left three years later after the Alliance imploded.

In 1987, with Sandra Coney, she published An Unfortunate Experiment, about National Women's Hospital.

It documented how women with cervical cancer had been unwitting guinea pigs in secret medical trials, and gave rise to the Cartwright Commission of Inquiry the following year.

With NZPA

- The Dominion Post

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