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R v McDougall [2021] ACTSC 102

The offender was sentenced following pleading guilty to dishonestly causing a loss to the Commonwealth knowing or believing that the loss would occur contrary to s 135.1(5) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code.  

Nature and Circumstances: The amount of loss was significant. Offending of this kind causes indirect losses because of the cost of monitoring and investigating for fraud. Period of offence was 2 years and 7 months. For the entire period of the offence, offender was on the full disability pension which was awarded on the basis that they could work up to 14 hours per fortnight. Offender maintained physically demanding work on a full-time basis. Offence was detected by way of internal review and presumably but for detection it would have continued indefinitely. Loss to the Commonwealth was $59,731.60. Offender was not sophisticated. Offender deposited earnings from employment into the same account used for the DSP.  

Mental Condition: The inescapable inference is that the motivation for the offence was financial gain. The offender’s thinking was confused particularly because of drugs that they were consuming in an attempt to counteract the effect of drugs prescribed for their mental health condition. Objective seriousness is informed by offender’s reduced moral culpability deriving from fact that they have a long-standing and very severe mental health condition. Although mental condition was relatively stable during period of offending, it nevertheless continued to impact significantly. Offender was admitted to Adult Mental Health Unit shortly before sentencing. Admission is indicative of severity of current mental health condition. Having regard to offender’s severely disabling and chronic condition of schizophrenia and personality disorders, person who is psychiatrically vulnerable like the offender is more likely to be stressed by the custodial environment, which would tend to exacerbate paranoia.  

Offender sentenced to 14 months imprisonment to be released immediately on good behaviour bond.  Offender ordered to make reparation in the amount of $59,731.60.
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