The defendant was charged with 10 counts of theft and three of falsifying accounts relating to public funds.
The court heard that between June and August last year, the defendant stole $20,900 from a government ministry in the Cook Islands.
Crown Law’s Talissa Koteka said a theft charge carried a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment on each count and for falsifying accounts, 10 year’s imprisonment on each count.
Koteka said aggravating factors included a breach of trust between the defendant and the community, the use of her knowledge as a previous employee of the ministry and the falsification of accounts which involved thorough planning and special skills.
She said the defendant’s actions in falsifying accounts were deliberate and the amount taken was significant.
In mitigation, Koteka said the defendant was appearing in court for the first time and had entered an early guilty plea which warranted a discounted sentence.
She said the offences carried a custodial sentence and due to the significant degree of planning involved in concealing the offence, a maximum of three and half years’ imprisonment should be considered as the starting point for sentencing.
Defence counsel Wilkie Rasmussen said he agreed more with a Probation Services report that recommended a non-custodial sentence and sentencing of the defendant to three years’ probation, with the first 12 months devoted to community service.
He said reparation was ready and would be sorted by a family member.
Before considering the defendant’s personal position, Justice Williams noted a Probation Services report which said that time and time again, they came across cases of females committing theft charges. Often they involved mothers who had to fend for their families, but it being a mother could not be used as an excuse for committing a crime.
Justice Williams said on March 8 he had dealt with another similar case where a female was sentenced.
“The personal histories in these cases portray struggle for women who try to be a mother, a partner and a wage earner supporting the family.”
Justice Williams said Probation’s sentencing recommendations were generous, but the Crown submitted that the main charge was falsifying accounts.
He said in mitigation, the defendant had turned herself in, consulted Rasmussen and entered an early guilty plea.
“For whatever reason, financial or family pressure, you succumbed to the temptation and committed the offence.”
Justice Williams gave a starting point of three and half years’ imprisonment and reduced it to two years and three months due to the mitigating factors.
However, as the sentence would adversely affect her two children, and due to the family’s circumstances, Justice Williams sentenced the defendant to one year and nine months’ imprisonment.
He also ordered reparation of $20,900.