A Tasmanian mother of five who stole thousands of dollars from Southern Midlands Council ratepayers to fund her gambling problem has avoided a term of imprisonment, after a mental health report detailed her “intense fear” of incarceration.
- Stacey Maree Watkins stole $12,000 from the Southern Midlands Council over three years to support her gambling problem
- Magistrate Robert Webster described the scheme as “unsophisticated”
- Watkins was sentenced to six months’ home detention, including electronic monitoring, and a two-year supervision order
Stacey Maree Watkins pleaded guilty to 23 counts of stealing, offences she committed while working as an administration officer at the council.
During sentencing, Magistrate Robert Webster said Watkins was responsible for receiving rates and camping fee payments, which she would steal by failing to enter the payments into the system and issuing customers with written receipts.
She would then attempt to pay money back later.
The offending occurred over the three years to October 2019, during which time Watkins stole just over $12,000 from the Southern Midlands Council, the court heard.
It was uncovered when one ratepayer was informed their rates were overdue after earlier paying Watkins, which Watkins told them was an “error.”
They then called the council, triggering an investigation.
Magistrate Webster described the scheme as an “unsophisticated process.”
“You were always going to be caught, I think you knew that,” Mr Webster said.
The court heard the 36-year-old had depression for years before developing a gambling habit as an “escape”, eventually taking money from her workplace to support the problem.
Watkins lost about $100,000 to gambling over four years.
She was terminated by the council shortly after the investigation began.
In discussing the seriousness of the case, Magistrate Webster said the value of the stolen money was “not insignificant,” and the lengthy period of the offending had to be considered, as well as the fact all but about $1,100 had now been repaid.
He said the mental health report submitted to the court made it clear Watkins held an intense fear of incarceration.
Magistrate Webster recorded a conviction on each charge, sentencing Watkins to a six-month home detention period including electronic monitoring, and a two-year supervision order.