Senior government counsel Gloria Au Yuen-wah surrendered to police yesterday after the Justice Department decided to prosecute her for allegedly hiding a theft conviction when she applied for a job 14 years ago. Au, 44, appeared in Western Court immediately afterwards and was charged with obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception. No plea was taken and she was released on $2,000 bail. The case comes after the department sought advice from a senior member of the Bar on whether to prosecute Au for failing to disclose the 1975 theft conviction when she applied to the then Legal Department for a job in 1988. The court heard Au 'dishonestly obtained . . . the opportunity to earn remuneration in the employment of the Hong Kong government by deception' when she applied for the position of assistant crown counsel. The alleged previous criminal offence came to light after Au escaped prosecution in April for stealing a $250 handbag last August from Marks & Spencer in Queen's Road, Central. Western Court magistrate Tong Man then heard how a store detective saw Au take a black handbag from a shelf, walk to the children's wear section and put it into a plastic bag. She was stopped when she tried to leave the store without paying. Au admitted stealing the bag. She was sent to hospital later that day after a drug overdose. The court heard she continues to receive treatment and counselling for her longstanding condition. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Grenville Cross, decided to drop the charges after seeing psychiatric and other medical reports submitted by Au's lawyer, and a psychiatric report from a government doctor. He said it was 'not in the interests of justice' to pursue the case. But another police investigation was launched when the alleged previous conviction came to light and the case came back before the Department of Justice. An independent senior counsel was asked for advice since the case involved a member of the department. Au was moved to a research position at the Law Reform Commission when the allegations first surfaced and continued to earn more than $80,000 a month until she was suspended with effect from today. Magistrate Timothy Jenkins adjourned the case until November 5, when it will be transferred to the District Court.