Deeply sorry’ Queenstown mail thief jailed

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The disgraced former NZ Post worker who stole thousands of Queenstown residents’ mail has been jailed for 17 months.

Local postie Philippa Lynette Lindsay appeared before Judge Kevin Phillips in Queenstown District Court today for sentencing over a representative charge of theft by a person in a special relationship between September, 2010, and November, 2012.

Lindsay, 32, calmly read out a letter of apology addressed to NZPost, affected residents and the wider Queenstown community before she was handed her prison sentence.

She told the court she is “deeply sorry” for her offending.

“I am not a malicious person and it was never my intention of hurting anyone. I hope that over time you will be able to forgive me, but I will understand if you don’t.

“If I could take back what I have done I would do it in a heartbeat but unfortunately I can’t. I am ready to accept my penalty.”

Lindsay admitted on March 11 stealing 21,382 items of mail, which was hidden at her Frankton Road property, at a storage unit in Arrowtown and in a car park at Coronet Peak. Of the hoard, 1577 items were opened.

Defence lawyer Phena Byrne told the court that her offending – which began as soon as she started working as a postie – was prompted by a series of issues including alcohol abuse, being bitten by a dog while on her mail delivery round and being in a car accident.

“It seems she quickly found herself out of her depth with her job,” Byrne says.

Lindsay made a “bizarre attempt” to conceal her wrongdoing by trying to open some of the mail, shred the contents and recycle the envelopes, she adds.

“It is not a case of being motivated by greed, but the inability to face up to her responsibilities.”

Lindsay denied any wrong-doing when NZPost conducted an internal inquiry in November last year.

Judge Phillips refused Byrne’s argument for a sentence of home detention, saying that Lindsay’s offending was large-scale and resulted in wide-spread harm across the community and NZPost.

“I find that you rejected your employers’ faith in you right from the outset and it just got worse and worse,” Phillips told Lindsay.

“You just kept on adding to it [the hoard]. You did not stop at all and even when the game was up you continued to deny it.”

Judge Phillips described the action of delivering a person’s private mail as being “sacrosanct”.

“I believe that when someone sends a letter, it will be received.”

NZPost spent $48,000 on sorting and returning all the mail to residents living in Fernhill, Sunshine Bay, Lake Hayes Estate and Arrowtown. Only 100 unaddressed items remain at Queenstown Police Station.

Judge Phillips ordered Lindsay to pay $30,000 in reparation to NZPost – $10,000 immediately and the balance by December 31, 2015. She must also pay a total of $354 in reparation to individuals whose mail was interfered with.

NZPost’s postal deliver general manager Toby Beaglehole says Lindsay’s sentencing brings “an additional degree of closure to this regrettable incident”.

“This individual has done a grave disservice to the thousands of hard-working and dedicated posties who are the backbone of our postal service,” he says.

“Our internal investigations are largely complete and we have taken a wide range of steps to pinpoint how this happened and reduce the likelihood of similar offending in future. Where appropriate, individuals have been held fully accountable for their actions.

“Lessons learnt from Queenstown have already been applied elsewhere in the country and resulted in swifter and more emphatic response to customer concerns.

“Once again I extend our sincere apologies to the people affected by this incident.”