The woman who leaked details of a undisclosed $60,000 scholarship given to prime minister Tony Abbott’s daughter, Frances, has escaped criminal conviction.
Freya Newman was 20 and a library assistant Whitehouse Institute of Design when, encouraged by other staff members, she obtained the scholarship details from the institute’s records by using the log in of another staff member. Frances Abbott received the 2011 managing director’s scholarship from the Institute’s owner Leanne Whitehouse. A story about the unknown scholarship appeared on the New Matilda website in May 2014.
In Downing Centre Local Court this morning, Magistrate Teresa O’Sullivan placed Newman on a two-year good behaviour bond, finding her guilty under Section 10 with no conviction recorded. In summing up, Magistrate O’Sullivan said she was satisfied that Newman’s actions were motivated by a sense of injustice, rather than desire to embarrass Frances Abbott.
The Magistrate said “the breach of trust is to the lower end of the scale”, was not commercially sensitive and that Newman had been encouraged to act by senior staff.
In September, Newman pleaded guilty to accessing restricted data, which has a penalty of up to 2 years in jail. Police prosecutors acknowledged the offence was at the lower end of the scale, but called for a conviction as a deterrent to other potential offenders.
Her barrister, Tony Payne, SC, described the university student, now 21, as a “whistleblower” who did not realise her actions were against the law. Because the Institute is a private, rather than public institution, Newman had no protection under whistleblower legislation.
Newman subsequently wrote a letter of apology to Frances Abbott.
The Whitehouse Institute said the scholarship was awarded on merit and denies giving any special treatment to Frances Abbott.
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