Frances Abbott Scholarship Whistblower Has Sentencing Delayed


The sentencing of Freya Newman has been set over to 12pm today, forcing a packed courtroom to wait further to learn the fate of the 21-year-old whistleblower.

A crowd of close to 100 onlookers – including journalists, family, supporters and lawyers – filled a Sydney local court to hear the case, with many forced to stand in the aisle or sit on the courtroom floor.

Magistrate Theresa O’Sullivan will sentence Ms Newman at midday.

She faces a maximum two years jail under section 308(H) of the NSW Crimes Act which forbids accessing restricted data held in a computer.

In September, Ms Newman pleaded guilty to accessing the student records of Frances Abbott while she was a student at the Whitehouse Design Institute.

The records showed Ms Abbott, the daughter of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, had received a secret scholarship from the private college.

In 2011 Ms Abbott was approached by the Whitehouse Institute Managing Director Leanne Whitehouse and offered the scholarship. Her father was the Leader of the Opposition at the time.

The scholarship was not disclosed to senior figures at the college and did not appear on Tony Abbott’s Members’ Interests Register.

Reporters wait outside for Newman. Photo: Max Chalmers.

Ms Newman had been working at the college as a part time librarian and quit shortly after the scholarship became public.

Whitehouse Institute CEO Ian Tudor was in attendance, alone among the large crowd.

Ms Newman sat in the second row and appeared calm despite the attention her case has attracted.

Despite the support inside the courtroom there was no sign of a promised demonstration as Ms Newman arrived in the morning.

As the matter was held over, a small group of supporters held signs labelled ‘protect whistleblowers’ and ‘free Freya’ outside the court away.

New Matilda will continue to update this story throughout the day.

A Darumbul woman from central Queensland, Amy McQuire is the former editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine.