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DPP (Cth) v Knight [2021] VCC 1927

The offender was sentenced following pleas of guilty to 1 count of defrauding the Commonwealth contrary to s 29D of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) and 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.

Physical Condition: Offender suffers from chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), though there is no connection between their PTSD or its associated symptoms and the offending. Offender’s symptoms would be able to be monitored for and treated by prison-based mental health services. Offender’s combination of significant physical and medical conditions (more than their psychiatric condition alone) are likely to cause them to experience imprisonment as more burdensome than an individual without such conditions. Offender’s respiratory problems requiring the use of oxygen day and night will add to the risk of serious harm should they be exposed to COVID-19 whilst in custody and is an exceptional circumstance.

Contrition: Offender is truly remorseful for their conduct. Offender agreed to make restitution and have approximately $100 withheld from their fortnightly pension, though this is unlikely to repay the total amount defrauded in their lifetime. Offender had repaid $7,421.41 of the $350,517.83 unlawfully obtained.

Antecedents: Offender’s early childhood was one of deprivation marked by physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Offender was forced to leave school at 13 to look after their terminally ill father. Offender was raped on multiple occasions by their older brother at 15 and, when they sought to confide in their mother, was accused of being mentally ill and admitted to a psychiatric hospital where they received various forms of treatment, including electric shock therapy. Offender’s personal hardships throughout their life can only be described as exceptional. The combination of the offender’s background of hardship, the terrible tragedy of losing their husband and three daughters in a car crash in which they were also injured, and their multiple past and ongoing complex, debilitating physical and mental health conditions, calls not only for moderation of sentence, but also demands application of principles of mercy.

Nature and Circumstances: Offending was serious and continued for approximately 22 and a half years. The amount defrauded is large, $350,517.83, but averages at approximately $15,579.00 per annum. Offender was not motivated by greed nor funded a lavish lifestyle. Offender used the money to support themselves throughout abusive relationships when they received little or no financial support from their partners. Offender also relied on these funds to pay for their children’s, and later grandchildren’s, expenses of daily living.

Offender sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, to be released forthwith upon entering a recognizance release order with conditions of a good behaviour bond for 3 years and reparation to the Commonwealth by fortnightly instalments of $100.
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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