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DPP v Nguyen [2023] VCC 1111

See full judgment: Austlii.

The offender was sentenced following a plea of guilty to 1 count of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception from a Commonwealth entity.

Nature and Circumstances: The length of time covered by the offending is significant. It occurred over a four-year period and only ceased when offender became aware of the investigation. There are a significant number of false claims – 5,833. Offending involves a serious breach of trust. Offender has abused their professional position as a PBS approved pharmacist for their own purposes. There was an average of 4 claims per day for a daily amount of about $2,855. The amount obtained is significant. No other case has been identified which reaches a similar amount. Offending was reasonably straightforward and simple. Offender’s motive is somewhat opaque, but, rather than being financial, is a case of psychological need. Upon being confronted with the investigation offender was able to fully repay the amount misappropriated over a relatively short time. This is a relatively serious example of this type of deception.

Mental Condition: Offender has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Psychologist is of the expert opinion that the offending appears to have been precipitated by a combination of offender’s low self-esteem, mental disorder, a negative mood state, feelings of disempowerment, early life experiences of poverty and trauma, and problematic personality traits. Offender’s psychological profile and mental health state connect to their offending which lowers their moral culpability to some extent. However, their diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder is not such that offender is not an appropriate vehicle for general deterrence. Offender’s thinking was not so disordered that the community would not expect them to be used as a vehicle through which to deter others.

Rehabilitation: Offender is a person of good character aside from this offending. They are fifty years old with no prior criminal history, nor any subsequent matters, though the offending was carried out over a lengthy period time. Offender has taken steps towards addressing their mental health by way of psychological and psychiatric treatment. Offender’s treaters note that offender has insight into their mental health symptoms. Although there is ongoing work to do in relation to offender’s personal mental health, their chronic depression is no longer likely to result in criminal behaviour. Offender’s prospects of rehabilitation are extremely good.

Delay: Offender was first interviewed in April 2019. It was not until July 2022 that charges were laid against offender. That delay works to mitigate the sentence. Offender has suffered anxiety as a result of the delay, heightened by their chronic depression and anxiety. Offender has demonstrated a significant level of cooperation with the prosecuting authority throughout the investigation. During the period of delay, offender has not reoffended in any way and has taken steps to remove themself from their professional role, voluntarily giving up their registration, and have repaid the monies owing in full to the Commonwealth.

Offender sentenced to 2 years and 4 months of imprisonment, to be released after 6 months on recognizance of $2,000 to be of good behaviour for 1 year and 10 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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