A Kaitaia woman's claim that she was motivated by tikanga Māori when stealing more than $110,000 from a disability support charity has been labelled shocking by a judge.
Toddy Shepherd was jailed for three years in the Kaitaia District Court this week after being found guilty on six charges of theft by a person in a special relationship, and one of obtaining by deception. The first six charges were representative, meaning there were multiple offences of the same kind.
The offending, involving more than $111,000, was between 2012 and 2015 while Shepherd worked for CCS Disability Action as regional manager of the Hononga Rawhiti region. They involved unauthorised spending on accommodation, cash withdrawals, credit card buys, flights, rental cars and petrol.
The offending, and the laying of charges, predates her appointment as academy director for the Sweet As trade training course run by Kaitaia's He Korowai Trust, where, according to the trust's website yesterday, she is the deputy chief executive.
On Thursday Judge Deidre Orchard rejected Shepherd's claims that her offending had been motivated by tikanga Māori and a desire to care for others.
Judge Orchard said Shepherd had been motivated by "nothing more complicated than greed", using the money she had taken from her employer to fund a lifestyle that she could not afford on her "perfectly reasonable" salary.
Shepherd was jailed for three years, Judge Orchard giving her a discount of six months "which is very generous and probably not justified" for her "good work" in the past and her good work since the offending as deputy CEO of He Korowai Trust.
She was also ordered to pay reparation of the total involved, $111,577.67, with an immediate payment of $3400, which she had offered prior to sentencing, the rest in instalments.
The Crown wanted a starting point of three years' imprisonment, citing aggravating factors including that the money had been taken from a non-profit organisation over a long period of time and her lack of remorse. Defence counsel Rob Samuels argued for community detention, community work, intensive supervision and reparation.
Samuels said his client's offending had been influenced by her desire to comply with tikanga Māori, supported by a cultural report, while the pre-sentence report had understated the defendant's remorse.
Judge Orchard said there had been no evidence of remorse in any of the documents she had seen, nor did she accept that tikanga Māori had played any part in her offending.
"She is still some distance from accepting responsibility for her offending, and is still looking to blame others," she said.
"To claim that the card was used by other people is absolute rubbish," she added, "and the schedule (of transactions) ... debunks any suggestion that the offending can be attributed to tikanga Māori or cultural needs.
"She was simply living beyond her means, and took advantage of lax (auditing) processes."
The card had been used, for example, to pay for a rental car while she was on holiday. Hundreds of dollars had been taken from ATMs before she made a personal trip to Australia, with her husband, partly funded by the card.
"This is an intelligent, well-educated woman with significant experience in management," Judge Orchard said.
"I do not accept that she ever believed that what she did was appropriate or for anyone else's benefit. To hide behind tikanga Māori is quite shocking."