A psychologist caught stealing a Karen Walker designer dress was locked up in the shop while police were called.

The health worker, who now admits professional misconduct related both to the theft and to a drunk-driving conviction, had taken scissors and cut a security tag off the dress.

She had taken the $276 dress into a changing cubicle and put it in her handbag. On her way out she returned two other items onto their hangers.

The shop cannot be named because of suppressions, but it was not a Karen Walker store.


"Upon leaving [the shop] with the stolen dress hidden in her handbag, a shop alarm sounded," according to an agreed summary of facts given to the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal at a hearing today.

"A shop assistant apprehended [her] outside the store and asked her why the alarm had sounded. [She] showed the shop assistant a Salvation Army dress which she had in her bag and the shop assistant spotted the stolen dress in the bag."

The assistant took the psychologist back inside the shop, whose owner locked the door and called police. An argument erupted before police arrived and took the psychologist to their Auckland central station.

Police cautioned her and trespassed her from the shop but did not prosecute.

The psychologist emailed the shop owner the day after the shoplifting incident in November 2014 to apologise. She also thanked the owner for outing her "petty and cruel ... little hobby".

"I had not given much thought to the innocent shop owners who loose [sic] out because of me. Being caught and taken in [by] the police has really taught me a lesson, so thank you."

She later paid $257 for the dress because it had been destroyed by the removal of the security tag.

Suppression orders prevent some details of the case being reported, including the psychologist's and the shop's names.

A professional conduct committee of the Psychologists Board charged the health worker with professional misconduct for matters including failing to disclose to her employers the police caution for shoplifting, previous shoplifting episodes and an Auckland District Court drunk-driving conviction in April 2013.

The court conviction also involved careless driving. She had been drinking wine at a party, failed to stop at a red traffic light and crashed into the back of a taxi. Her breath was measured to contain 993 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath. She was fined and lost her licence for seven months.

The tribunal hearing continues tomorrow.