Three-month ban for nurse smuggling cigarettes
A nurse convicted for smuggling cigarettes into Spring Hill Prison for a prisoner she was in a relationship with has now been barred from practising for three months.
Kim Marie Newman, formerly known as Kim Marie Jeffrey, was censured by the New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal and ordered to attend education courses on understanding her professional responsibilities before she is allowed to return to work as a registered nurse.
The Te Kauwhata woman must also pay $4622 towards the cost of the tribunal hearing in Hamilton on December 9 last year, a newly released decision said.
Under her former surname Jeffrey, Newman was convicted in the Hamilton District Court in May 2012 on two charges of breaching the Corrections Act.
She was later sentenced to six months' community detention and 400 hours of community work.
On appeal the High Court upheld the convictions but quashed the sentences imposed by the District Court and instead imposed a sentence of six months' home detention, as she was five months pregnant at the time and the travel required for her community work sentence was no longer practicable.
The tribunal heard that in 2011 prison authorities became concerned Newman might be associating in an inappropriate manner with a prisoner named Gogo Hunt and she was interviewed on the issue in July of that year.
Newman admitted at that interview that she had exchanged numerous text messages with Hunt, including one in which she agreed to bring tobacco into the prison on his behalf.
She told prison authorities she had given Hunt her home address so the tobacco she was supposed to take into the prison could be delivered to her.
A package was then delivered to her house which Newman said smelled like marijuana. She opened the package and found a green, granular substance which she flushed down the toilet.
During a subsequent interview with the police, Newman said she knew that communicating with a prisoner by text and bringing tobacco into a prison were illegal, but she had agreed to do so out of fear for her safety.
At the December tribunal hearing Newman said she did not dispute her convictions but, through her lawyer, denied they reflected badly on her ability to practise. Specifically, she argued that her offending had nothing to do with her being a nurse, but rather was to do with her being an employee of the prison.
She also argued there was also no harm done as a result of her conduct.
However, the five-person tribunal panel led by Maria Dew disagreed, noting that while the offences did not relate to Newman's "clinical competence as a nurse . . . as is frequently the case with conviction cases brought to this tribunal, the offences may relate to a health practitioner's wider professional obligation to act ethically, honestly and lawfully in accordance with the standards of professional conduct expected of the nursing profession".
The Professional Conduct Committee, which brought the action against Newman, sought a 12-month suspension period. However the tribunal observed she had not practised as a nurse since resigning from Spring Hill in July 2011. It also noted that she had already been subject to "substantial punishment", including the loss of her employment, an insolvency and media publicity.
Newman's three-month ban came into effect on February 4.