A pregnant 27-year-old woman with a penchant for bullying vulnerable elderly people into giving her money was jailed for two years on a raft of charges when she appeared for sentencing in Wellington District Court today.
Amanda McNamara, due to give birth in August, had earlier pleaded guilty to burglary, 13 counts of dishonestly obtaining funds and eight of breaching parole conditions between November 27 and December 5 last year.
Judge Oke Blaike said McNamara had a 12-page list of previous convictions for violence and dishonesty, serving her first prison sentence when she was 18-years-old. That year, she had 37 convictions for dishonesty.
Most recently, she approached a 73-year-old man for help.
"He, in a Good Samaritan way, offered you some money."
McNamara continued to prey on her elderly victim, going on to extort a considerable amount more from him by using stand-over tactics. She also involved two other women, which was "a further concern."
The judge said McNamara once stormed into the man's house at 11pm and "manhandled" the frightened victim out into the street where her associates were waiting in the car.
She went on to offend further.
Back in 2008, she had conned an 84-year-old Wellington widow out of $50,000 and two years before that, a Johnsonville man aged 80. When he refused to hand over any more money she attacked him viciously, putting him in hospital.
Lawyer Janine Bonifant told the court McNamara had shown "genuine remorse" this time and was strongly motivated to address her long standing drug and alcohol issues. She was offering to pay $3800 in reparation at $30 a week.
Having had children removed from her care in the past, she did not want "history to repeat itself."
Ms Bonifant said her client had never acknowledged her problems before, and was now making decisions in a more adult way than she had done in the past. It was not "just an attempt to pull the wool over your eyes," she assured Judge Blaike.
McNamara accepted that the only way she could realise her aim of becoming a full-time mother was to address the problems resulting from her own abusive childhood.
The Bridge Programme was willing to take McNamara for residential treatment at the end of her sentence.
Ms Bonifant said her client had asked her to raise the possibility of home detention, with an understanding that accommodation would be available for her at the City Mission.
Judge Blaike's firm response was: "I am going to send you to jail. The issue is for how long."
Given her list of previous convictions, he said he treated McNamara's expression of remorse with some cynicism, even while agreeing she had had an extremely difficult upbringing.
"It is sad that your baby will be delivered in prison. It is a pity you didn't think about that either before you became pregnant or broke the law."
The judge said he accepted McNamara appeared to be motivated to change but she had been given many opportunities in the past.
However, he would take her intentions into account and make the sentences concurrent.
Told that the latest victim's bank had refused to reimburse the money McNamara had taken from his account, Judge Blaike said he would like those who made the decision to reconsider.