Six years after a $12,000 theft from his then employer,
37-year-old Richard James Crooks has escaped conviction
because of the disproportionate consequences for other people
working for his present employer.
Counsel Sally McMillan told Judge Stephen Coyle in the
Dunedin District Court yesterday a theft conviction would
affect the defendant's ability to travel overseas.
If he could not travel, Crooks would automatically lose his
job. He would then be unable to support his wife and child in
Venezuela and could not go there to be with them.
A conviction would also mean the company for which he now
worked would be unable to continue its international sales
for which Crooks was responsible. The resulting loss of
income would mean several other staff would also lose their
jobs, Ms McMillan said.
Crooks pleaded guilty earlier this year to offending
committed between June 23, 2006 and November 4 the following
year when he sold 34 of 328 water blasters bought from a
He had used the business account of his Hastings employer, JB
Holdings, to buy the water blasters then sold them on his own
account on Trade Me for varying amounts.
He kept the $12,753.02 from the sales because he was "in deep
When the director of JB Holdings contacted him, Crooks
admitted what he had done, expressed his remorse and said he
would repay the money. But he had made only four payments
totalling $525 when he was charged, the court heard.
Ms McMillan said the balance of the money - $12,138.02 was
available in her firm's trust account.
Judge Coyle took into account the wider interests of the
community, the need for strong denunciation and deterrence
and the ongoing abuse of a position of trust. But he said the
case had to be considered on "its own merits and unique
circumstances". A conviction would also have consequences for
the defendant's wife and son, although that was often the
case in such matters.
What tipped the matter for him was that fact that, if Crooks
lost his job, so too would other members of staff.
"That, to me, is a disproportionate consequence," the judge
Crooks had been in a difficult financial situation at the
time of the offending and tried to get out of it by taking
property which was not his and selling it. Such behaviour had
to be denounced.
But the judge accepted the defendant now had a good job, was
supporting his wife and son and could pay reparation in full
so the harm to the company could be reimbursed.
The director of the company had been understandably hurt by
the breach of trust and was clearly disillusioned with the
defendant's character. Crooks had promised to pay over time
but did not start paying until he was charged. Had he repaid
the money voluntarily, he probably would not be in the
situation in which he found himself.
It would be a disproportionate consequence to the gravity of
Crooks' offending for other innocent members of his present
employer's staff to lose their jobs, Judge Coyle said.
He discharged Crooks without conviction, fined him $1000,
court costs $132.89, and ordered reparation of $12,138.02 to
be paid within seven days.