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Theft from employer

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Published under Major Cases, Offences

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June 9, 2016

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Matters of theft and fraud from a person’s workplace are treated very seriously by the courts, as a recent ACT Supreme Court case shows.

The recent judgment by Justice Burns involved a person who admitted taking more than $1.4 million in eight separate transactions over a 15-month period.

As the employer was a Federal Government agency, the eight charges of theft were brought under the Commonwealth Criminal Code.

Each carried a maximum prison term of 10 years.

There are many related charges, under Commonwealth, and state and territory law, to cover a wide variety of dishonesty offences.

There are many considerations to be taken into account at sentence.

In the matter before Justice Burns, the court explored many of them, and was assisted by a Pre-Sentence Report compiled by Corrective Services and also by the tendering of a number of comparable cases.

In his decision, the judge took note of many factors, including the following:

  1. The offender had used some of the proceeds to buy an Aston Martin motor vehicle, travel, fashion and jewellery in what the court found was “a lavish lifestyle”.
  2. The offender entered an early plea of guilty, but that came in the face of an “overwhelming” prosecution case. Discounts for pleas of guilty can attract up to a 25 per cent discount at sentence. Justice Burns settled on 15 per cent in this case.
  3. The fact that the offender was a servant of the enterprise he stole from was an aggravating feature. There had been repeated breaches of trust. The offender had used knowledge obtained via his position to his own advantage.
  4. There had been a “significant degree of planning and sophistication”.
  5. The Pre-Sentence Report found that the offender had limited insight into his offending but that he had accepted responsibility for it.
  6. The PSR believed him to pose a “low risk of re-offending”.
  7. The offender had signed an agreement with his former employer to pay back all funds, but had not at the time of sentence executed that agreement.

Justice Burns said, “The most important sentencing considerations for these offences are general deterrence and the need for punishment.

“I take into account your prior good character, but the weight to be given to that circumstance is reduced by the nature of your offending. You were only trusted as you were and placed in a position to commit these crimes because of your apparent good character.

“Having considered all relevant circumstances, I consider your prospects for rehabilitation to be reasonable to good.”

The Judge said he had received considerable help from the comparable cases tendered.

He did not mention if either the Prosecution or Defence had made written submissions.

The offender was sentenced to a total of five years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of three years.

If you are facing a dishonesty charge from the plethora of legislation in the area, you should get advice from a criminal law specialist.

The team at Armstrong Legal regularly appear in these types of matters at sentence in the Local Court of NSW and the ACT Magistrates Court as well as, for the more serious matters, in the District Court of NSW and the ACT Supreme Court, where they always prepare written submissions as well as oral argument to ensure you receive the best possible outcome.

About the Author

Andrew represents clients in the ACT Supreme and Magistrates Courts as well as the NSW Local and District Courts of the Canberra region. He appears also before the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal in licensing, mental-health and other matters. His breadth of experience allows him to tailor his advice and submissions to ensure the best possible results for his clients. View Andrew's profile

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