New Zealand Justice Minister Kiri Allan resigned Monday, July 24, after police charged her with reckless driving and resisting arrest following a car crash. Image: AP
New Zealand's justice minister resigned Monday after police filed charges against her and said she was over the legal alcohol limit when she crashed into a parked car.
The incident involving Kiri Allan was the latest in a series of missteps and scandals involving government ministers less than three months out from national elections. Polls indicate the conservative opposition has pulled level or moved slightly ahead of the incumbent liberals in what promises to be a close race.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said Allan was involved in the crash soon after 9 p.m. Sunday in Wellington and was detained at the central police station for about four hours.
Police have charged her with careless driving and refusing to accompany a police officer.
Hipkins noted police reported that Allan's breath test showed she was over the legal alcohol limit, although she was not charged with drunk driving. Police said they issued Allan an infringement notice in relation to the breath test.
A court date has not been set. If found guilty, Allan could face fines and a suspension of her driver's license.
Once considered a rising star of the Labour Party, Allan had recently taken time off for her mental health after being involved in a publicized split with her partner and accusations of poor working relationships with staff.
Hipkins said he spoke with Allan on Monday morning and told her he thought she wasn't in a fit state to remain a minister and it was untenable for a justice minister to be charged with criminal offending. She agreed and resigned her ministerial roles, Hipkins said.
For now, Allan remains a member of Parliament.
"While her alleged actions are inexcusable, I've been advised she was experiencing extreme emotional distress at the time of the incident," Hipkins said. "Her recent personal struggles with mental health have been well documented and it appears some of those issues came to a head yesterday."
Hipkins said he felt sad for Allan.
"Kiri is an incredibly talented person who clearly has been battling some demons, and has not won that battle," he said.
Allan said she was sorry for her actions and was heading home to consider her future in politics.
"Over recent weeks I've faced a number of personal difficulties. I took time off to address those, and believed I was okay to juggle those challenges with the pressure of being a minister," she said in a statement. "My actions yesterday show I wasn't okay, and I've let myself and my colleagues down."
Last month, Transport and Immigration Minister Michael Wood resigned after failing to disclose a possible conflict of interest with stock he owned. In March, Police Minister Stuart Nash was fired after it came to light he had given confidential information to donors. In May, Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri was fired after switching allegiance to another political party.
Opposition leader Christopher Luxon said he hoped Allan was getting the support she needs, but added the situation raised questions about the judgment of Hipkins.
Hipkins took over as prime minister in January after predecessor Jacinda Ardern stepped down. New Zealand's elections will be held Oct. 14.
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