A man who stole from a grieving relative got a helping hand at sentencing from an esteemed Maori leader.
Abreham Lemmon came before Waitakere District Court this afternoon on a charge of obtaining by deception.
The court heard how in June he took the debit card details of an aunty who had recently suffered the loss of two close family members.
He used them to take $1736, which was spent on art supplies for a kohanga reo trust of which he was a member.
Judge Lisa Tremewen highlighted Lemmon's criminal history, which involved multiple fraud and dishonesty offences but it was contrasted by an impassioned speech from Dame June Mariu.
The former Silver Ferns captain and vocal west Auckland Maori leader, who was made a Dame in 2012, was impressed by Lemmon's work with her on Hoani Waititi Marae.
"I see he's regretted whatever things he may have done and we would be very happy to support him on his way ahead in future, because he has the skills, he has the ability and he has concern for our people," Dame June said.
"All I'm saying is we all can make mistakes and I'd like him to be given the chance to stay with us and we can make sure things go alright for him."
The 82-year-old has often joked about regularly being late for appointments but since Lemmon had assisted her she said had "never been so on to it".
Despite the defendant taking advantage of a vulnerable woman, Judge Tremewen said she could not ignore the input of someone as respected as Dame June.
"[She] has taken the time and trouble to come along to speak on your behalf and of course I place weight on a person of her mana coming along in the way she has to express her support, because I know she would not have done that if she didn't believe it was the right thing to do," the judge said.
She said Lemmon was "not proud" of his criminal record but the unauthorised transaction for which he was convicted was eventually reversed, so there was no loss to the victim.
He was sentenced to two months community detention, a night-time curfew and 75 hours of community work.