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DPP (Cth) v Au [2023] VCC 68

The offender was sentenced following a plea of guilty to 1 count of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception from a Commonwealth entity contrary to s 134.2(1) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code. Further dishonesty offences were taken into account pursuant to s 16BA of the Crimes Act.

Nature and Circumstances: Between 25 February 2018 and 20 June 2018, offender entered false prescription details for 71 pharmaceutical benefits in the name of family members and friends into the pharmacy’s dispensing software. This resulted in payments totalling $108,189.04 being deposited into offender’s bank account. The prosecution’s characterisation of offending as objectively serious due to the number of false claims and the period over which they were made, the use of the names of family members and friends, the ‘significant amount of money’ involved, the further offending in 2019, offender’s position as an experienced pharmacist with ‘intimate knowledge of the PBS claim system’, and offender’s abuse of the trust the scheme placed in them as an approved pharmacist is accepted. Offender’s further offending as described in the s 16BA notice underlines the seriousness of offending. Offender repaid the entire amount to the Commonwealth. Offender borrowed money from a friend to do this and are still paying off that debt.

Delay: Offender experienced delays between their first interview and the date of sentence. Offender experienced significant anxiety and uncertainty over this period while their fate remained undetermined. It is this effect that warrants some modest reduction of the sentence imposed. Offender has not further offended during this time which evidences their good prospects of rehabilitation. It also lessens the need for the consideration specific deterrence.

Hardship: While the loss of offender’s registration as a phramacist, either temporarily or permanently, is a weighty matter, it should not be accorded significant mitigatory weight. The loss of offender’s professional position was a natural, if not necessary, consequence of their offending.

Specific Deterrence: Offender’s prospects of rehabilitation are excellent. As such, specific deterrence is of less significance given there is little likelihood that offender will re-offend. However, further offending in 2019 means that there is a greater need to specifically deter offender than would otherwise be the case.

Offender sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment to be released after 8 months upon a recognisance in the amount of $5,000.
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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