Rest home worker granted suppression for ‘dumb’ selfie

A teenage rest home worker who posted a selfie on Instagram with an elderly woman patient on the toilet in the background has been granted suppression so that she can “move on”.

Christchurch District Court Judge Jane Farish told her: “A lot of young people are really reckless with their cellphones. They do dumb things. This was a really dumb thing.”

The sentencing hearing was told in a clinical psychologist’s report that the woman was young, anxious, and had a history of major depressive episodes. “She is prone to catastrophising her circumstances,” the clinician reported.

The woman was 18 when she posted the picture to her Instagram account with a comment about sharing her love of her work. She did not realise that the rest home and the woman’s family would be able to see the posting.

The 88-year-old woman had cognitive difficulties at the time and had since died. She was not exposed in any way in the picture, and both she and the teenager were smiling in the selfie.

Judge Farish said the posting was “lighthearted” but she told the teenager: “The family are gravely angry with you.”

The woman pleaded guilty last year, but sought a discharge without conviction today on the charge of recklessly making an intimate visual recording.

Judge Farish said that the rest home worker had been embarrassed by her “significant abuse of trust in terms of your care of the resident”. Privacy was really important for the care of elderly residents.

Defence counsel Shannon-Leigh Litt had presented material showing that the woman had been well liked, and well regarded in the work she did at the home. She sought the discharge to ensure the teenager could continue to work in an area she enjoyed.

She now has another job, with an employer who knows about the offending. She hopes to move on to nursing work, which would mean an eventual application to the Nursing Council.

The judge decided that she would not grant a discharge without conviction, but she agreed to grant final name suppression. This would enable the woman to “move on and gain qualifications”.

She noted that the woman was assessed as having a profound sense of shame and embarrassment and had significant worries about her future aspirations. She remained clinically depressed and in a brittle mental state.

Judge Farish imposed no penalty, other than a $500 payment to the elderly woman’s family for emotional harm reparations.

After the hearing, the woman said through her lawyer, Miss Litt, that she was genuinely remorseful and had been working to improve herself.

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