Parramatta Local Court
Our client was charged with five counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception from Centrelink, in breach of section 135.2(1) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code.
Over a period of about two and a half years, our client was in paid employment whilst receiving benefits from Centrelink. He failed to correctly declare his income to Centrelink, and as a result received benefits to which he was only partially entitled, or not entitled at all, totalling an amount of $21,238.21. Our client’s fraud was detected by Centrelink’s data-matching system, and he was subsequently charged. He suffered from chronic epilepsy, anxiety, and depression, and was in a dire financial situation at the time of the offences. He had commenced repaying Centrelink, and pleaded guilty at an early stage to all five counts. The matter was adjourned for sentence at Parramatta Local Court.
The law prescribes severe penalties for people found guilty of social security fraud, the maximum penalty for the offence with which our client was charged being a 12-month term of imprisonment. The courts have repeatedly held that in such cases, a sentence of imprisonment is to be imposed unless there exist very special circumstances justifying a lesser sentence.
When the matter came before Parramatta Local Court for sentence, we persuaded the magistrate that there were a number of factors in mitigation which called for a more lenient sentence. Accordingly, the magistrate found that a term of imprisonment was not appropriate in the circumstances. Instead, he released our client on a bond pursuant to section 20(1)(a) of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, conditional upon our client being of good behaviour, accepting a treatment plan from his psychiatrist, and repaying the remainder of the amount owed to Centrelink. Our client’s release on a bond was an excellent outcome for this type of offence, particularly considering the significant amount of money involved.