Civil servant stole $362

Loss of her job with government and loss of her good name were greater penalties than any the court could impose, defendant Caroline Vassell was told last week.

Vassell, who formerly worked at the Licensing Department, pleaded guilty to stealing two amounts totalling $362 and falsifying an accounting record 28-29 September 2005.

Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale said a sentence of imprisonment was not necessary in this case, given what the defendant had already lost, the relatively small amount involved and the short period over which the thefts occurred; a day or two.

She ordered the defendant to perform 40 hours of community service and pay back the $362.

A record for dishonesty is the hardest to overcome, she said.

Defence Attorney Lloyd Samson confirmed that Vassell’s employment with government was at an end after 18 years and she was now having trouble finding a job.

Crown Counsel George Keightley said the defendant, 38, had been deputy supervisor of the Licensing Department’s Elgin Avenue branch.

She stole $158 from a cashier’s float and $204 from a lodgement, and then falsified a reconciliation sheet to cover the missing sums.

She admitted to her superiors using $158 to settle a personal debt and then replacing it with money she got from a relative. Mr. Keightley said this kind of theft was sometimes thought of as an unauthorised short-term interest-free loan.

Vassell then took more money, but was unable to replace it.

Mr. Samson said she was expecting an insurance cheque but it didn’t come through. When she later attempted to pay the money back, it was not accepted because the matter was with the police.

Mr. Samson’s understanding was that this sort of short-term loan was not an unusual practice.

The magistrate disagreed. She said employees have to know there is no such thing as borrowing in such circumstances; it is theft. She did not believe it was common practice. If it were, Vassell would not have felt the need to falsify the record.