Former Immigration Officer Jose Kirchman has pleaded guilty to stealing $10,555 while he worked at the Immigration Department in 2001-03.
Mrs. Justice Priya Levers ordered him to pay the full amount back by the end of March. She also imposed a term of two years imprisonment, but suspended it.
Both the judge and Defence Attorney Nicholas Dixey made extensive references to a social inquiry report that had been ordered at an earlier hearing.
On Friday, Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn detailed the offences, 10 of theft and nine of false accounting.
She explained that Kirchman’s role was to receive money from employers applying for work permits. He received payments, issued receipts and transferred the money into the appropriate accounts.
For each theft, he would issue a receipt to the payer, then cancel the office copy of the receipt and adjust the paperwork accordingly.
In May 2003, a question arose that involved work permits for the Department of Tourism. That started an investigation.
Kirchman was questioned and admitted his offences.
The judge noted that Kirchman was earning $2,400 per month at the time. He was paying $800 a month alimony plus rent plus medical bills for his son.
‘The cost of living is so high. The temptation is there,’ she said. She called it a horrendous problem in this country when people’s water bill and electricity are more than what they earn.
Ms Gunn said employee theft was becoming a regular occurrence. The Court of Appeal was scheduled to hear arguments because the Crown seeks sentencing guidelines.
The judge asked what the point of guidelines was if a social inquiry report says the case is an ideal one for a community service order. Then somebody else says send the man to prison.
If the Department of Immigration is going to get its money, then it would be preferable to keep the defendant outside to earn money and also provide for his child instead of languishing in prison. ‘Each individual case must be considered on its facts,’ she said. Sending him to prison would be punishing his sick child.
Mr. Dixey said the length of time over which the offences occurred could be an aggravating feature, but he asked the court to consider the length of time this matter had been hanging over Kirchman.
He said the defendant had expressed remorse and had been working to save money for compensation.
Questioned by the judge, Kirchman said he was making $2,000 a month in a construction-related field, but no longer paying rent.
The judge told him not to keep quiet if he found it difficult to pay the money back, but go and see his lawyer and get more time. Otherwise, for failure to pay, he would have to serve a term of six months.
She warned him not to steal to pay for anything in the future; otherwise he would end up in prison, where he would be denying his child a father.