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R v Blackburn [2023] NSWDC 1

The offender was sentenced following pleas of guilty to 2 counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception contrary to s 134.2(1) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code. An additional dishonesty offence was taken into account pursuant to s 16BA of the Crimes Act.

Nature and Circumstances: Offender, as the practice manager of a physiotherapy practice, submitted 2,244 claims to Medicare for 2,579 patient services that were not provided. From this, the total amount of payments received by deception over almost 7 years was $314,253.60. Offending involved sustained, deliberate and not unsophisticated criminality on thousands of occasions. Count 1 is a mid-range offence and count 2 is slightly above a mid-range offence.

Antecedents: Shortly after the practice started, offender’s husband was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease which impacted upon his capacity to operate as a physiotherapist. It was in this context that offender decided that, rather than bringing the business to an end, it could be continued by defrauding Medicare. Some of the funds which were dishonestly obtained were diverted to maintaining the drug habit of one of offender’s sisters and to maintaining the gambling habit of their brother. Offender’s husband began to inflict emotional and physical violence on offender, including sexual assaults. Offender has no prior convictions.

Rehabilitation: Offender purported to express remorse for their offending conduct at the first interview. But they weren’t completely honest with the officers at that time. No weight can therefore be given to the expression of remorse made by you at that time; and their subsequent expressions of remorse need to be examined very carefully. However, there are a number of protective factors involved – namely, offender’s young children for whom they have some responsibility; their family and support; and a good and meaningful job. On balance, prospects for rehabilitation are guarded.

Offender sentenced to 4 years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 2 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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