A sex worker outed online by an angry jilted partner and labelled a "diseased town bicycle" says she has not spoken to her daughter in two-and-a-half years since being exposed.

Margaret Herewini-Te Huna posted "derogatory and unpleasant" comments exposing Danna Burton as a sex worker, after finding out her estranged partner had been seeing her.

Herewini-Te Huna appeared in the Wellington District Court this morning for sentencing on one count of posting a harmful digital communication.

Reading from her victim impact statement, Burton cried, took shaky breaths, and had to pause several times as she described how the offending had ruined her relationship with her family.


The first she knew of the posts was when her eldest daughter called her on April 22, 2016, having seen the information online.

The conversation only lasted a few moments as Burton's daughter sobbed "uncontrollably".

The daughter's last words to her mother were "I'm so worried that they're going to find you one day dead in a gutter."

Burton and her daughter have not spoken since then, and Burton has been unable to see her grandson, who will be turning 3 next year.

Burton remembered feeling as if she wanted to throw up and as if she had been hit by a truck.

"My heart started pounding and my body started to shake," she said.

She could not eat, sleep, "or even keep water down".

"I remember wishing I would die ... [I remember] holding my breath so that I would pass out and die."


She has also not spoken to another one of her daughters since April 2016, except via email.

"She is under the false belief that I'm in trouble and in need of help and rehabilitation."

Burton has spent "countless hours" trying to get the information removed online, but due to the nature of the internet has no way of knowing where it has been shared.

"These posts have become a part of my life, a part of my children's lives, and a part of my legacy.

"The human and emotional cost is unquantifiable."

Judge Peter Hobbs said the internet was "often a platform for abuse and discourse that is simply not civil".


"The internet is not a licence for people to behave in a way that they might not ordinarily behave. It's not a licence for people to forget about civility and other normal means of interaction that are so often forgotten about when tapping on a keyboard."

He accepted Herewini-Te Huna's actions were driven by her anger, but not justified.

He sentenced her to 150 hours of community work and ordered an emotional harm reparation payment of $500.

After the sentencing, Burton told the Herald the penalty and the judge's comments had gone a long way to helping sex workers in their fight against stigma and discrimination.

She said she had been dating Herewini-Te Huna's estranged partner for about six weeks, and did not meet him through the escort agency she worked for.

"How many of us have been jilted by an ex boyfriend - and do we go around behaving in that manner?"


Burton wanted to point out the way police dealt with her complaint, saying she felt safe, unjudged, and listened to.

Dame Catherine Healy, who received a Queen's Honour recently for her advocacy for sex workers and their rights, was also at the sentencing to support Burton.

"I think it's an important outcome, not only for sex workers but for all people who are affected by those sorts of harmful acts," she said.

"Sex workers always start from the back foot in terms of stigma ... it's really heartening to hear the court recognises the harm that can be caused by this kind of thing to someone who is a sex worker."