A woman who pleaded guilty to stealing $9,000 from her employer to get medicine for her child was sentenced last week to four months’ imprisonment suspended for two years, 80 hours community service and a full compensation order.

Brianna Casey Kirchman admitted taking the money in 15 different transactions between 14 Aug. and 31 Aug. 2017. She did so by issuing false customer refunds at the dive shop where she worked.

In passing sentence, Magistrate Valdis Foldats said dealing with financial pressure or paying medical expenses are issues many people must deal with. “Turning to crime to lessen one’s burdens cannot be condoned,” he said.

One mitigating factor was the child’s illness. The defendant had explained that she stole the money to pay for medical treatment. The magistrate said she was “stealing ‘enough’ to pay someone, no doubt a charlatan, who pressured her and claimed that there was an herbal remedy for her daughter’s condition”.

The magistrate agreed with Crown counsel Garcia Kelly that the theft was a breach of trust, but said it was at a medium level of culpability, not a high level. In addition, the thefts were not sophisticated and were bound to be found out.

He noted that Kirchman had already paid back $4,000 and intended to pay back the rest. This showed her remorse, he said.

“In the normal course of events, breach of trust cases call for a term of immediate imprisonment to ensure that individuals who may be inclined to commit similar offences are deterred, and to mark publicly the gravity of this type of behaviour,”  Foldats said. “Exceptional circumstances must exist to overcome this bedrock principle.”

He found the defendant’s position as the sole caregiver of the child, and the child’s medical condition did amount to exceptional circumstances.

“I stress here that this is a child-centred approach – the court’s focus is on the well-being of the child, not the defendant,” the magistrate said.

He ordered compensation of US$5,532 and CI$401 within a year or three months’ imprisonment in default.

The defendant has lost her reputation and is now a convicted thief, he commented. That was part of the price she had to pay; it was a natural consequence of her crime.

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