Bayleys agent Tonya Spicer was sacked after police 'leaked' unlawful information to her employer
A real estate agent acquitted of dealing drugs has accused police of trying to ruin her life.
Tonya Spicer, 47, was sacked this month by Bayleys despite being found not guilty of supplying methamphetamine after a trial in the Auckland District Court.
Her boss initially stuck by her, telling staff she was an "innocent victim", but then sacked her after police provided information to Bayleys that had been obtained unlawfully and ruled inadmissible at trial.
Police have now launched an internal inquiry into the leak.
"I'm gutted, it feels so bittersweet," Spicer said, adding that she would take legal action against police for breach of privacy and her former employer for unjustified dismissal.
"This has all been caused by the police officer concerned who just can't accept he has made a mistake and that I was not involved in drug activity," Spicer said.
She said she thought that after fighting the allegations for more than two years, she was at the end of a "very long and miserable road".
"I'm now faced with a new battle – a battle to save not my liberty as for the last two years, but my employment."
Spicer and her husband, Paul Anthony Spicer, had been arrested as part of a major police operation targeting former Ray White real estate agent Brett Campbell Bogue, who pleaded guilty to drugs charges in 2014 and was sentenced to nine years' jail.
Spicer had been working for Ray White at the time of her arrest.
The jury in the Spicers' trial heard they talked about "contracts" and "sale and purchase agreements" during intercepted calls with Bogue, which the Crown alleged was code for meth deals.
But the defence said Bogue owed the couple money and the conversations had nothing to do with drugs. The jury agreed and the couple were acquitted on all charges after a week-long trial.
Shortly after the verdict, Bayleys in the North director Mark Macky, who had given evidence at trial for Spicer, sent out an email to staff saying "this verdict clearly vindicates Tonya, who was simply an innocent victim to the actions of a third party".
He went on to say that Spicer had "always acted with honesty, integrity and professionalism" and had been "amazingly stoic throughout what must have been an incredibly harrowing time".
Macky wrote that while there had been a negative public relations impact on Bayleys because of the trial, "we feel strongly that we've done the right thing in supporting her, with this decision now vindicated by the jury".
He said it was now "business as usual".
But just three days later, Macky called Spicer to a disciplinary meeting at Bayleys head office in Auckland.
He revealed that a member of the police drug squad had told Bayleys information that had not been heard at trial, relating to items found during a search of her property. That search had been ruled unlawful.
Macky accused Spicer of lying to him and she was sacked. It's understood the information was disclosed by police to another Bayleys estate agent who was also a former police officer.
Macky confirmed Spicer no longer worked for Bayleys.
"It's an employment issue between myself and Tonya and we're still working it out."
He was "not at liberty to say" who from police provided the information. The former police officer declined to comment.
Detective Sergeant John Sowter of the Organised Financial Crime Agency which ran Operation Enzone which captured the Spicers, said he could not comment on the alleged privacy breach.
"It's going through an internal process at the moment, there's going to be some investigation."
Spicer said police had never let her explain the conversations with Bogue, instead "aggressively pursuing" her.
"This involved an unlawful search of my family home from which they sought to utilise items found ... even though I had no knowledge of them and they had nothing to do with me."
She said police did not care who they damaged.
"Even when the court disagrees with them, they arrogantly continue to think they are right and go behind the court's determination, to seek to ruin things for me."
Associate professor Gehan Gunasekara, an expert on privacy law at Auckland University, said police would have needed to have a reasonable belief that information they disclosed was necessary to prevent any future offending.
"If they're giving information to the real estate people, the investigation is already finished, the trial is finished, all it's going to lead to is her dismissal, so that purpose you could argue is not covered.
"There are probably valid grounds to bring a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner."
Gunasekara said further action could be taken in the Human Rights Review Tribunal, where there had been substantial awards against police in the past.
- Sunday Star Times