Hawke’s Bay early childcare owners ‘gutted’ over former employee’s betrayal

A Hawke’s Bay early childcare worker who took intellectual property and information relating to the business of her former employers has been discharged without conviction.

The woman, whose name was permanently suppressed by Judge Chris Sygrove at her sentencing in the Hastings District Court, had admitted accessing a computer for dishonest purposes.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years’ jail.

Speaking outside of the court, the woman’s former employers said they were frustrated by the “very lenient” decision and lack of a conviction which would have helped protect future employers.

The offending occurred when the woman directly accessed the computer system at her then-place of work, and dishonestly downloaded sensitive business and client information.

Rather than taking items she believed were her intellectual property, she also took a copy of the business’ database system.

Several files and hardcopy documents were also deleted and destroyed.

Forensic cyber specialists were brought in by the business owners to uncover how the files and information had been taken, to the cost of $13,400.

She was described by her former employers as a “key person” in their business.

Reading an emotional impact statement, her former boss told the court the woman had been “fuelled by greed”.

“She wanted to excel in her new job [working for a competitor company] and use our information to help her in that endeavour.

“She had sufficient opportunity not to take any of the personal information relating to our business. She actively chose to take everything.

“Our trust in her couldn’t have been greater. This is gutting.”

She said her own business’ reputation had suffered as a result of the privacy breach relating to “sensitive information” relating to “vulnerable children and their families”.

The woman’s defence lawyer Eric Forster said his client had made a “grave mistake”.

“I accept she must have known there was a dishonest aspect because she checked with an IT friend if it could be traced.”

He said a conviction might end her career in early childcare or education.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Andy Horne disagreed that the woman could be considered “naive” and said the offending had severely impacted the complainants.

“[Their] names have been besmirched throughout the community as a result.”

Horne said he was strongly opposed to an application to discharge without conviction, due to the gross breach of trust and premeditated nature of the offending, which took place after the woman learned she had secured employment at a rival centre.

Judge Sygrove acknowledged the woman had made a “foolish mistake”, for which he accepted she was remorseful.

He said her previous good character and lack of prior convictions could be called upon in this instance.

She was discharged without conviction.

Judge Sygrove and Forster noted the woman had paid $13,400 – the full sum of reparation ordered – before she was sentenced.

Speaking outside court, the owners said they were frustrated, on behalf of future employers, by the “very lenient” decision given the extent of premeditation and that the USB drive was located by police at her new place of work.

“A conviction would have helped protect future employers, the children in her care and her work colleagues in the future by providingtransparency to her dishonest character.”

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