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DPP v Phillips [2023] VCC 1481

See full judgment: Austlii.

The offender was sentenced following pleas of guilty to 2 counts dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception from a Commonwealth entity, 1 count of attempting to dishonestly obtain a financial advantage by deception from a Commonwealth entity, and 1 count of dealing with proceeds of crime worth $100,000 or more.

Nature and Circumstances: Offences of defrauding the tax office are inherently serious. Offending involved lodging 48 different Business Activity Statements. Charge 2, in particular, was repeated, methodical offending. This was not impulsive reactive offending. At each stage offender could have ceased this dishonest activity but chose not to. Offending was not sophisticated. Offender did not use a false name or bank account to hide their identity.

Mental Condition: Offender’s childhood was marred by a series of traumatic events where they were sexually and physically assaulted by numerous people in their life. Offender has met the diagnostic criteria for ADHD and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The PTSD symptoms are connected to the traumatic events of their childhood. Offender’s mental health and cognitive issues would make their time in custody more onerous than for a person without those conditions. Offender’s ADHD and intellectual deficits might have led to increased impulsivity and poor judgment, but this would have had a greater impact on the assessment of their culpability if the offending had been reactive or short lived. Whilst it was not accepted that offender’s childhood, upbringing, intellectual deficits, and mental state are directly linked to the offending, that history is, nevertheless, relevant to the sentencing.

Rehabilitation: Offender’s anti-social traits and their history of drug use increases their risk of re-offending. It is much to offender’s credit that they have completed a number of courses whilst on remand and that they applied for, and were given, a position as a Peer Educator. This speaks well of offender’s work towards addressing their own issues and their willingness to help others. In view of offender’s history, their prospects of rehabilitation are somewhat guarded. Because of their history of offending and because of the short passage of time between offender’s last release and this offending, specific deterrence has a significant role to play in sentencing them.

Offender sentenced to 7 years and 6 months of imprisonment with a non-parole period of 5 years.

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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