A prominent law professor has been outed for writing alleged fraudulent letters against the End of Life Choice Bill.

In the Gisborne Herald yesterday Martin Hanson wrote a scathing column on prolific letter writer "Stephen Francis", outing him as Stephen Penk - a professor at Auckland University.

The column stated that "Stephen Francis" had written letters to the Dominion Post, the Gisborne Herald, the Southland Times, Hawke's Bay Today, Rodney Times, the Northland Age and most recently the Whanganui Chronicle, all arguing against David Seymour's End of Life Choice bill.

Hanson said "a bit of sleuthing" among electoral rolls revealed that the letter writer was actually Stephen Francis Penk.


He argued that Penk's use of an alias for these letters was "intentionally deceiving" and a "particularly devious tactic".

Penk is known to be from a conservative Christian family, and the father of Chris Penk, MP for Helensville, and Alex Penk, who runs the conservative Maxim Institute.

The trio have all campaigned publicly against assisted dying - with Stephen Penk having made a submission to a parliamentary select committee outlining legal arguments in opposition to the bill.

ACT Leader and End of Life Choice Bill Sponsor David Seymour. Photo / Paul Taylor
ACT Leader and End of Life Choice Bill Sponsor David Seymour. Photo / Paul Taylor

Hanson argued that Stephen Penk's writing alias went against his Christian values.

"In the Roman Catholic version of the Ten Commandments, the Eighth is "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour"; an injunction that forbids intentionally deceiving others.

"One would like to think that Christians, especially the more conservative ones, would consider honouring the truth to be central to the way they conduct their lives.

"So when the Eighth Commandment is routinely flouted by conservative Christians campaigning against David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill, it seems that truth is subordinated to dogma."

Hanson said he was confused by Penk's motives, sighting shyness and over-campaigning as possible reasons behind his actions.


"A more likely explanation is that using a pseudonym creates the impression that opposition to the bill goes beyond a religiously conservative family all campaigning on the same issue," he wrote.

"Whatever the explanation, his deviousness has resulted in this law lecturer and committed Christian being skewered on the three spikes of a trident.

"...Ironically, his desire for anonymity is likely to have boomeranged and produced precisely the opposite effect."

ACT leader and End of Life Choice Bill sponsor David Seymour released a statement in response to the column, saying, "Nobody should feel unable to use their proper name in this debate".

"Nor should anyone need to exaggerate the support for their cause using fake names."

The Herald has sought comment from Stephen Penk and his sons.