A Rotorua woman has been jailed for texting her son during a defended hearing in an attempt to stop him giving evidence against her.
Ruth Adele Wheeler, 44, unemployed, appeared in the Rotorua District Court yesterday following time in custody after Judge Thomas Everitt held her in contempt of court. Wheeler has been sentenced to two months' jail.
She had pleaded not guilty to benefit fraud charges brought against her by the Ministry of Social Development and was appearing at day two of a defended hearing before Judge Everitt on Wednesday. During the hearing Judge Everitt said Wheeler was interrupting and made intimidating remarks to her son that he was unfit to give evidence.
During an adjournment Wheeler sent a text message asking him why he was giving evidence against her and it could result in her going to prison.
"This was clearly an attempt to pervert the course of justice," Judge Everitt said. "In my view it's outrageous."
Judge Everitt said police approached the court about whether to lay a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice against Wheeler but Judge Everitt said he would deal with it and held Wheeler in contempt of court.
"This is such a bad contempt," he said.
Judge Everitt said Wheeler's actions had affected her son, who was extremely upset, but with "careful management" he was able to continue giving evidence.
Wheeler's lawyer Nicky Scott told the court Wheeler was very protective of her son.
She had spent two nights in custody and was sorry for what she had done, Ms Scott said.
"I apologise for how I was in court," Wheeler told Judge Everitt.
He sentenced Wheeler to two months' jail for being in contempt of court and remanded her to appear in the Tauranga District Court for sentencing on October 24 on a charge of using a forged document - a charge she was found guilty of at the conclusion of the defended hearing.By Abigail Hartevelt