An Australian primary school ethics teacher was fined $400 after admitting accidentally bringing cocaine into New Zealand.
Joanne Kinghorn was arrested after customs officers found a zip-lock bag with 1.1grams of the Class-A drug in her purse at Queenstown Airport on Sunday.
The 40-year-old was initially charged with importing cocaine but the charge was amended to one of possession when she appeared before Judge Christopher Somerville at Queenstown District Court this morning (Wednesday).
Defence counsel Sonia Vidal told the court Kinghorn had celebrated her 40th birthday with family and friends at a restaurant and then a private party on Friday night.
“Close friends gave her the bag for her birthday,” Vidal says.
“She doesn’t ordinarily partake in that type of drug. She put it in her purse [and] had some that evening.”
Kinghorn had inadvertently left the cocaine in her purse and caught a flight from Sydney to Queenstown on Sunday morning.
Kinghorn was immediately co-operative when caught at Queenstown and explained to authorities what had happened.
“She’s mortified about the situation she finds herself in,” Vidal says.
“She’s otherwise got a clean criminal history [and] she works as a nanny and a volunteer teaching children in schools in Sydney. She’s extremely concerned about the impact of a conviction, but she acknowledges she was in possession.
“Three days in the cells in Queenstown will ensure that she never, ever commits an offence again.
“I think it would be fair to say it’s been an horrific experience for her.”
Vidal says Immigration New Zealand had laid a detention warrant on Kinghorn, who is booked to leave New Zealand on a flight at 3.30pm today.
“She will remain in the custody of Immigration who will put her on the plane.”
Judge Somerville described the situation as a “disaster”.
Kinghorn acknowledged possession of the drug, with an estimated value of between $300 and $400, but says she never intended to import it.
“It’s something out of my character,” Kinghorn says.
“I did have it, I did use it and I did three days in prison. I can handle that because I did something wrong.
“I’m an ethics teacher, teaching ethics to primary schools . . . if that was to compromise what I do, that would be mortifying.”