Minister for Education Christopher Pyne has taken to Twitter to criticise the leniency of a sentence handed down to a University student convicted of hacking.
University of Technology Sydney student Freya Newman escaped a criminal conviction on Tuesday for illegally accessing the student records of the Prime Minister’s youngest daughter Frances, a punishment Mr Pyne felt was disproportionate.
“I’m not convinced the sentence in the Freya Newman case sends a clear message that breaching another’s privacy is wrong,” said Mr Pyne.
Ms Newman, a former library assistant at the Whitehouse Institute of Design, pleaded guilty and was found to have broken the law in a NSW local court. She received a two year good behaviour bond, despite the prosecution urging a conviction.
The Education Minister added the hashtag “auspol”, which gave his post greater visibility to Twitter users interested in Australian politics.
His comments echo those of Frances Abbott, whose $60,000 scholarship at the Whitehouse Institute leaked to the media as a result of Ms Newman’s crime.
Ms Abbott told The Australian that “a small child” would know it is wrong to breach privacy.
I’m not convinced the sentence in the Freya Newman case sends a clear message that breaching another’s privacy is wrong #auspol
— Christopher Pyne (@cpyne) November 25, 2014
The maximum penalty for Ms Newman’s crime was two years in prison, but the prosecutor accepted that her offending was at the lesser end of the scale of severity, effectively ruling out the possibility of a jail sentence.
Andrew Tiedt, a criminal lawyer at Sydney-based firm Armstrong Legal, told The New Daily that the penalty for Ms Newman’s “relatively minor” breach was “at the lower end” of penalties, in keeping with its lesser severity.
“I would certainly say the penalty was at the lower end of penalties for this offence, but that reflects the fact that the seriousness was at the lower end as well,” Mr Tiedt said.
In the past four years to June, eight people have been sentenced in NSW for the same crime. Three received no criminal conviction, like Ms Newman. Of the five who were convicted, three also received good behaviour bonds, one was fined, and one received a period of community service.
Mr Pyne, who joined Twitter in June, received almost 80 replies to his tweet, with the vast majority critical of his post.
Mr Pyne has also suffered heavy criticism on social media recently for petitioning the ABC not to cut jobs in his home state of South Australia. Twitter users were quick to point out the irony of a minister campaigning against cuts caused by his own government.
The office of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has declined to comment.