Mother smears daughter's rival in malicious calls to schools

A Queenstown mother has admitted making calls claiming to be a sexual health worker in a bid to damage the reputation of a teenage girl who was a rival to her daughter as both had applied to study at two Dunedin high schools.

The 53-year-old woman, who was given interim name suppression, appeared shaken when she appeared in the Queenstown District Court yesterday.

The woman faces two charges of using a telephone for a fictitious purpose under the Telecommunications Act, which has a penalty of three months' imprisonment, or a $2000 fine.

Prosecutor Sergeant Ian Collin said the defendant applied to St Hilda's Collegiate School and Columba College in May this year for her daughter to be accepted in 2012.

"There is a very high demand for limited places at the schools and a board makes a final decision" on candidates towards the end of the year, Sgt Collin told Judge Kevin Phillips.

The mother was aware another Queenstown teenager was also applying for both schools about the same time, he said.

"In an effort to have her daughter accepted ahead of the other student, the defendant made the fictitious phone calls to both St Hilda's and Columba College, concerning the other student's behaviour and that of her parents," he said.

The defendant called St Hilda's principal, Melissa Bell, on August 2 at 1.30pm. The mother claimed to be "Anne-Marie Thompson", a sexual health worker based in the Oxford Clinic in Invercargill, and said one of the boarders needed support with treatment.

The defendant then said she had made a mistake and she was calling in relation to a prospective pupil. The mother went on to name the prospective pupil, Sgt Collin said.

About 30 minutes later, the defendant called Columba College boarding director Richelle Manson and identified herself as "Anne-Marie Thompson", a nurse at the Queenstown Medical Centre.

The defendant claimed she had to make an appointment for the prospective pupil and named her.

Sgt Collin said the woman called the college at 4.30pm, when she knew Ms Manson had finished for the day.

The defendant gave staff member Glenys McDowell the same false name and told her the prospective pupil "had a sexually transmitted disease and that she was in a lesbian relationship with another girl".

The suspicions were raised by all recipients of the telephone calls. They found nobody named "Anne-Marie Thompson" working at either the Oxford Clinic or the Queenstown Medical Centre.

The defendant was spoken to by police on August 26, but she refused to make a statement and answered "no comment" to all questions, Sgt Collin said.

Judge Phillips said he had enough information for a sentence, but he called for a pre-sentence report and a psychiatric report.

The woman was convicted and remanded on bail until November 28.


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