A woman who was convicted of obtaining a credit card by deception, and six counts of theft by a person in a special relationship, was jailed last week after Judge Deidre Orchard rejected her claims that her offending had been motivated by tikanga Māori and a desire to care for others.
Sentencing Toddy Shepherd in the Kaitaia District Court, Judge Orchard said she had been motivated by "nothing more complicated than greed," using the money she had taken from her employer, CCS Disability Action, to fund a lifestyle that she could not afford on her "perfectly reasonable" salary.
Shepherd was jailed for three years, with 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 Kaitaia's He Korowai Trust.
She was also ordered to pay reparation of $111,577.67, with an immediate payment of $3400, which she had offered prior to sentencing, the remainder in instalments.
The Crown had suggested a starting point of three and a half years' imprisonment, citing aggravating factors including that the money had been taken from a non-profit organisation over a more than three years and the defendant's lack of remorse. Defence counsel Rob Samuels argued for community detention, community work, intensive supervision and reparation.
Mr Samuels said his client's offending had been influenced by her desire to comply with tikanga Māori, supported by a cultural report (which he told the court Shepherd had paid for), 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, and the schedule (of transactions) that is attached to my findings 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 to pay for a rental car while she was on holiday and to send flowers to her daughter. 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."
She also refused Mr Samuels' application for a second cultural report could be obtained, but she agreed that Shepherd's offending had not been sophisticated.
"It was brazen," she said. Information given to the writer of the cultural report by Shepherd and He Korowai Trust CEO Ricky Houghton, had been inaccurate.
The report displayed a lack of knowledge of the offending, and Mr Samuels' attempts to argue otherwise were "gobbledygook".
Judge Orchard said Shepherd had been employed by CCS Disability Action in Hawke's Bay in 2012, and as regional manager for the Central North Island obtained a credit card, which she falsely claimed had been authorised by her CEO.
She had used the card "freely" for three years, and most transactions had occurred outside her area of operations.
Judge Orchard accepted the CCS Disability Action CEO's rejection of the defence claim that Shepherd had effectively been "set up" to cover for money that had been "misapplied" prior to her employment.
She did not accept the defendant's attempts to blame the half-sister of her whāngai daughter, who had been employed as her personal assistant, for using the card.
"It should be a matter of absolute shame to you that you tried to place the blame at that young woman's door,"she said.