The woman faced Lismore Local Court on Friday.
The woman faced Lismore Local Court on Friday. Marc Stapelberg

Woman convicted over $20k in 'dishonest' Centrelink payments

A WOMAN who failed to properly report her income while she was receiving Newstart Allowance payments has been ordered to repay the full amount.

Lennox Head woman Julianne Margaret Heneghan appeared before Lismore Local Court on Friday morning.

The 53-year-old previously pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage from the Commonwealth.

The offences related to improper reporting of her income between February 13 and November 7, 2013 and between January 29, 2014 and November 17, 2016.

This led to overpayments totalling of $22,818.68.

Magistrate Michael Dakin said Heneghan had begun efforts to repay the money, but she still owed $20,745.56 to the Commonwealth.

He convicted her of both charges and ordered her to enter into a reconnaissance with $500 surety.

The Crown prosecutor asked for an order for fingerprint and photograph records to be taken by police, with Mr Dakin granted.

Mr Dakin said Heneghan has been on Newstart since 2001.

"That bears some significance to the moral culpability of the offender in this case," Mr Dakin said.

"She had been engaged with the social security system for a considerable period of time before this offending was engaged in."

Mr Dakin said she was "aware of, or should have been aware of" the compliance required.

The court heard she spoke with departmental officers on August 16, 2012 to confirm she had been reporting correctly.

On four later occasions in 2018 and 2016, she received text messages from the department warning that debt may be incurred if she was reporting incorrectly.

Her charges related to 100 false or under-declarations of her earnings.

Mr Dakin said he was aware the single mother-of-two had faced "difficulties" in recent years and the impact a criminal record would have on security clearances involved with her employment.

But he was not convinced this was enough to spare her a conviction.

"A highly relevant consideration ... is not only the conduct which led to the offence but the length of time over which the offending took place," he said.

The charges could have led to a maximum penalty of 12 months' imprisonment.



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