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DPP v Beitner [2023] VCC 1893

See full judgment: Austlii.

The offender was sentenced following pleas of guilty to 2 counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception from a Commonwealth entity contrary to s 134.2 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code

Nature and Circumstances: Offender was a medical practitioner registered with Medicare. Offender submitted 212 false bulk billed claim batches for rebates to Medicare relating to the provision of 5,108 medical services to 330 individual patients between January 2011 and February 2016. In total, offender obtained $318,435.35 in Medicare benefits to which they were not entitled.

Physical Condition: Offender contracted type II diabetes 20 years ago. That illness is controlled with diet and medication; however offender has physically deteriorated such that they now walk with a slow, shuffling, stooped gait. Offender suffered a serious heart attack in 2018. Offender remains at risk of further such episodes because of their chronic health condition and a genetic predisposition. Offender also suffers from angina which is treated by daily glyceryl patches. In 2019 offender was diagnosed with aggressive high-grade bladder cancer and underwent resection and was treated with immunotherapy. The side effects of this treatment have been severe and resulted in offender being bedridden for many months. Offender also suffers from multi-joint pain which is acute in their shoulder. The level of pain has been debilitating. It is likely the result of rheumatoid arthritis. Offender’s physical health is critically compromised and would be unlikely to be effectively managed in custody.

Mental Condition: Offender was assessed by neurologists and a consultant forensic psychiatrist as suffering severe cognitive decline. It is consistent with the medical assessments that offender suffers from major neurocognitive disorder (dementia) due to Alzheimer’s disease and a major depressive episode of moderate severity. The second, fifth, and sixth principles in Verdins are engaged in the circumstances.

Contrition: Offender has made full reparation of the loss to the Commonwealth. Although not necessarily decisive, the fact of full reparation is a very significant mitigating feature. Offender’s plea of guilty demonstrated an acceptance of responsibility and a clear willingness to facilitate the course of justice. The utilitarian benefits of the plea were very substantial. Although the plea was not entered until early this year, the complexity of the matter, the impact of the pandemic, and the various ongoing negotiations which led to a reduction in the charges and the quantum alleged, justifies proceeding on the basis that the plea was entered as soon as it was reasonably practicable.

The offender was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment to be released immediately on recognizance of $3,000 to be of good behaviour for 18 months.

The CSD acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as First Australians and recognises their culture, history, diversity and their deep connection to the land. We acknowledge that we are on the land of the traditional owners and pay respects to Elders past and present.

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