Police probe into childcare case

By Kathryn Powley

Officer email: Judges are like children, they like bright colours

Tracy Hibberd is in jail awaiting sentencing for faking documents.
Tracy Hibberd is in jail awaiting sentencing for faking documents.

Police have launched an internal investigation into the handling of the case of a childcare centre worker convicted of forging her qualifications.

Auckland's top police officer has had to apologise for derogatory comments one of his officers on the case made about judges.

Clevedon childcare worker Tracy Gwendoline Hibberd is in jail awaiting sentencing this week for faking documents.

Last month a jury at the Auckland District Court convicted her of eight counts of forging New Zealand Tertiary College (NZTC) certificates and letters. Hibberd's defence claimed her manager created the documents.

The Herald on Sunday has obtained emails from the investigating officer in the case, Constable Paul Sharples, sent to witnesses working for NZTC. We showed the emails to Auckland district commander Mike Clement and he confirmed a review of the case was under way.

In an email from Sharples dated October 11, 2011, to an NZTC staff witness, he explains how his brief would be presented: "I will get this laminated on A3.

Judges are like children, they like bright colours."

Clement said he'd apologised to the Auckland judiciary for the comments, which were made in jest but were "inappropriate and unprofessional". They would form part of the investigation.

In an email dated October 19, 2011, Sharples wrote to NZTC chief executive Selena Fox: "I have now completed all the briefs of evidence [formal written statements] other than my own. I have spoken with everyone else from NZTC and they are happy with theirs." He continued: "I have attached all the NZTC staff's briefs in case you want to look at them. You don't have to though." He would visit that Friday to get them signed. The email included Fox's brief and those of six other witnesses.

Clement declined to comment about Sharples' sharing witness statements with another witness. "In the fullness of time, I will know whether or not there was a departure from acceptable practice."

Criminal Bar Association president and former detective of 27 years Tony Bouchier said he'd never contemplated sharing evidence between witnesses. Doing so, he said, would be "dangerous".

"That is not normal behaviour at all. Unless there is some very good evidential reason for that, the witnesses' statements are privy to those witnesses. Making them generally available, in my view, is genuinely wrong."

Bouchier said Sharples' comment about judges was contemptuous, disrespectful, rude and broke a strict prohibition on police commenting about judges.

Clevedon Kidz manager Greg Shaw, a witness in the trial, declined to comment about Hibberd's defence case that her manager created the fake documents.

"People can allege, but unless it's backed by fact it means nothing," Shaw said. "The jury found her guilty on all eight counts. There's really nothing to say."

He wouldn't comment on whether Clevedon Kidz had repaid Education Ministry funding after Hibberd's qualification was revealed a fake, nor on whether he had sympathy for her.

Shaw said he, the community and the centre wanted to move on.


Lies on paper

2008: Former Immigration Service head Mary Anne Thompson claimed to have a London School of Economics doctorate. She was sentenced to 100 hours' community work and fined $10,000.

2007: Wayne Thomas Patterson was jailed for eight years for using more than 120 identities to fleece Work and Income of $3.4million.

2002: Maori Television chief executive John Davy was sentenced to eight months in jail for falsifying his CV. He claimed to be a graduate of "Denver State University" - no such institution existed.

2000: Bogus chemistry teacher Magnesh Reddy was jailed for four months for falsifying a Masters degree to get a job at Bream Bay College. He was also ordered to pay $24,000 reparation.

- Herald on Sunday

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