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A Tauranga Intermediate teacher found guilty of stealing 11 tablets of a young pupil's ADHD medication had earlier been dismissed from her job after a disciplinary meeting.
Helen Frances Aubrey, 44, was found guilty by Judge Robert Wolff in Tauranga District Court on Friday of a charge of theft of the Class B controlled drug, Concerta, after the conclusion of a two-day judge-alone defended hearing.
Concerta is a prescription drug that treats attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Judge Wolff said he was entirely satisfied that Aubrey had taken 11 tablets of the drug on May 28 this year after the pupil had given her a bottle containing 29 pills.
The same day a screwed-up label from the pill bottle was found in a rubbish bin in Aubrey's office. Police alleged the pills were stolen by the special needs co-ordinator, who suffers depression, for her personal use and also to assist with weight loss.
But the judge said it was not necessary for police to prove the motive for the theft.
The court was told the school became concerned about drugs going missing in February and also two medication logbooks had disappeared. As a result new safety measures were put in place.
It was only after speaking to the pupil's father about the May 28 theft that the school also learned that days earlier another lot of the same pupil's pills had gone missing. There is no specific charge in relation to this first set of missing pills.
Aubrey did not deny having the first lot of pills in her possession at one stage but claimed they had disappeared from a drawer in her office which was also used by other staff.
Aubrey suggested the pupil may have given some of her pills away to other pupils or were taken from her school bag before arrival at school, or possibly the parent was mistaken about how many pills were in the bottle.
Aubrey also claimed the label was removed accidentally while she was attempting to make it easier for the school nurse to dispense them to the pupil.
Aubrey's lawyer Bill Nabney argued that the prosecution case was based on circumstantial evidence and lacked direct evidence that his client had taken the pills.
Judge Wolff described some aspect of Aubrey's evidence and explanations about how the drugs came into her possession and how the label was removed as "incredible and unbelievable".
Aubrey's claim that she was unaware of the usual protocols about the handling of the pupil's Class B controlled drugs was also "just unbelievable", he said.
Judge Wolff said he had no reason to doubt the evidence of the pupil and her father, and Aubrey must have known the school board's directive was for the pupil to take her pills at home.
They had only come to school by Aubrey's initiation, without the principal's or school board's knowledge, the court was told.
Judge Wolff said: "Asking the parent to delete text messages coupled with all the other strands of the circumstantial inferences leads me to the one logical conclusion that Mrs Aubrey has tried to cover her tracks."
Aubrey was remanded on bail pending sentencing on October 8.
The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend applied for approval to take an in-court photo of Aubrey. The application was denied by Judge Wolff.
Outside court Tauranga Intermediate principal Brian Diver, who gave evidence at the hearing, declined to comment.