THE former business manager of Royal Wootton Bassett Academy has been fined after exposing a personal email from the headteacher.
Astrid Curzon, 49, was found guilty of misusing a computer to gain access to the school’s email system.
But she claimed she thought her authorisation to access the computer was still valid.
The offence, which falls under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, took place on November 26 when Curzon accessed the system from home and found a private email from head George Coxford to a staff member, in which he discussed the employment of another member of staff.
Curzon, of Highworth , who has more than 10 years’ experience in managing schools, appeared at Swindon Magistrates Court yesterday before Judge Simon Cooper and denied the charge.
The former beauty queen, who was Miss Thamesdown in the 1970s, was made redundant from her role on November 3 and admitted accessing the school’s email system using the login and password of another employee, Linda Atkinson.
She claimed she thought she was still authorised to access the emails, which she had used when employed at the school, while she was seeing out her 11-week notice period.
While accessing the system, she saw the email from Mr Croxford to a member of the school’s HR team, which referred to another member of staff, Susan Winter, who had been on long-term sick leave.
The email read ‘can you make sure that the report says she needs to go’, which the headteacher said was meant to be tongue-in-cheek.
When Mr Croxford was confronted by Miss Winter over the email he launched an investigation to find out who had accessed it.
It was discovered that Curzon had accessed the system from home and passed on the information to Miss Winter.
Speaking in her defence, Curzon said: “I didn’t think it was an issue at all. I honestly believed that I was doing nothing wrong by accessing the system on that day. I did not expect to find an email that was asking somebody to do something unlawful.”
Former Swindon Advertiser editor Dave King appeared in court as a character witness for Curzon.
The former Magistrate, who sat on the south east Hampshire bench, told the court he had known the defendant since 2001 when he became her lodger.
“In 2001 I came to Swindon and was looking for lodging when Astrid took pity on me and offered me lodging at her home in Highworth and since then we became firm friends,” he said.
“Astrid is one of the most generous, kind and thoughtful people I know and I wish to make clear in the days leading up to this trial she has had many messages of support from friends and has friends here today.
“She would always put herself out for others.”
However, Judge Cooper ruled that she did know what she was doing was unauthorised after receiving letters saying that her personal access to the school system would be suspended and that she was no longer required to carry out her role.
He said: “I am satisfied she had a very good idea of what she was doing, and that in accessing her own account would bear no fruit and therefore used Linda Atkinson’s account knowing that it was unauthorised.
“It is with regret that I came to the inevitable conclusion that what you did was contrary to the law.
“I think you were fooling yourself that what you did was right.”
Curzon was fined £200 for the offence and made to pay court charges of £675 plus a victim surcharge of £15.
Speaking outside court, she said: “Morally, I believe I did the right thing and I hope the governors of the school will see that.”