Woman who fleeced animal charity in court

A woman who fleeced an animal charity of all its funds, forcing it to close its doors, simultaneously robbed her friend of her life's passion.

The 53-year-old appeared in North Shore District Court this morning after previously pleading guilty to a charge of theft by a person in a special relationship.

Despite those who ran the charity calling for her to be named and shamed, Judge Roy Wade granted the woman permanent name suppression after reading two psychologists' reports.

The judge said she was suffering from anxiety and depression because of the court case and there was an elevated risk of self-harm should her name be published.

He also suppressed the name of the 20-year-old charity, which was financially unable to continue operations because of her offending.

Over two and a half years, the woman -- who was treasurer and had access to all internet banking accounts -- stole more than $10,000 from the organisation established by one of her best friends.

She made 83 payments from the charity's account to her own but masked the fraud by listing them under legitimate expenses.

A volunteer of 10 years, who cannot be named, said the head of the charity could not believe what had happened.

"She's absolutely devastated. It was her baby, her passion for 20 years. The fact [the offender] was her friend has doubled the betrayal," she said.

The pair attended a restorative justice conference with the offender but left totally unsatisfied.

"She showed absolutely no remorse," she said.

Despite the charity shutting down, the experienced volunteer continued its work but now had to spend nearly $100 a week to carry out her duties.

"The devastating thing was she was quite a good friend . . . she would've had no doubt of the effects [of her offending] on me." She said one of the most shocking aspects was the audacity of the crime.

On two occasions, the fraudster invited the head of the charity on trips to Australia, but unknown to her friend, paid for the trips by dipping into the organisation's bank account.

Her lawyer Henry Laubscher said the offending occurred after her ex-partner persuaded her to invest in a business, which eventually failed.

The woman lost her house and was struggling to make ends meet when the theft began.

She had already repaid $3000 before today's sentencing and had a cheque for $2000 to be handed over.

Judge Wade ordered the remainder of the reparation be paid at $75 a week.

A member of the charity said there was an initial offer by her son to pay back the entire reparation sum if they dropped the charge against her but after a committee meeting they decided against that course of action.

Judge Wade called the offending "an appalling breach of trust" but took into account the fact this was her first offence.

He sentenced her to 100 hours community work and a year's supervision in which he directed her to undertake appropriate courses to address her drinking problem.

By Rob Kidd of APNZ

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