Woman acquitted in embezzlement case; judge says he understands why she did it

Tuku ange ‘e Fakamaau Lahi Laki Niu ‘a Loleini ‘Ala mei he tukuaki’i hia ki hono kai ‘o ha pa’anga ‘e $22,500 'a ha kautaha kae tu’utu’uni ke ne totongi fakafoki ‘a e $12,029.50 pea ke ‘oua te ne toe faihia ‘i loto ‘i he ta’u ‘e ua.

The Supreme Court has discharged a woman who embezzled $22,500 from her employer.

Judge L.M.Niu ordered that the accused, Loleini ‘Ala, be discharged without conviction on the condition she not offends within the next two years.

He ordered that she repays TP$12,029.50 to her employer.

‘Ala is a single mother supporting her widowed mother and two brothers.

After leaving school she had a variety of jobs and was working in a fish and chip shop where she was paid $150 a week.

In his summary of the case Judge Niu said:

“She says that her employer  was so pleased  with her  work that he promised  to raise her wages. She then worked even harder. She not  only  did  her normal work, she also did the office paper work and delivery  of documents  and banking, cleaning and also fish weighing and packing and working  into after hours.

“The promised raise, she says, never came. And in November 2017, she was entrusted with not only the banking,  she  was also entrusted  with the paying  of the wages of the other workers, whilst the employer went overseas.”

She then discovered that other workers, who had only started working after her, were getting the same money.

“I would imagine she felt cheated by the employer because what she then did was so out of character, and most irresponsible, and in fact consistent with revenge upon the employer,” Judge Niu said.

“She faked robbery by which she embezzled TP$22,500 of the employer’s money.”

She deposited TP$14,375 into a bank account and spent the rest on partying with friends as well as shopping for the home and for her child.  She withdrew a further  $2,894.50 from the bank account.

Police investigated the robbery.

On November 12, 2017, ‘Ala and her employer agreed that she would pay back the $12,029.50 left in the bank and would repay the $11,019 she had spent.

They told the police, who still insisted on prosecuting her.

‘Ala pleaded guilty before Lord Chief Justice Paulsen on July 13 this year.

A letter from her employer was produced in court which said that while ‘Ala had done wrong, they had forgiven her because of her daughter.

“While I do not for one moment condone or overlook what the accused has done,   that  she   has  knowingly   and   embezzled   her  employer’s   money,  I understand why she did it and I believe that  she would not have done what  she did, if she had been fairly dealt with  by  her  employer.

“I am not  saying that her employer unfairly dealt with her because I have not heard the employer’s side; in fact the employer says in his letter that the accused did wrong to the company.

“But the accused believed, she had been unfairly and wrongly dealt with by the company, and she did  what  she did  because  of that. “

The judge said ‘Ala was “most foolish” to have done what she did. However, he said that if all young people were imprisoned for being  foolish  “they  would all grow up with a prison sentence  hanging  over  them.”

In reaching his decision on sentencing, Judge Niu relied on Section 204 of the Criminal Offences Act, which states:

“Where a court is of the opinion, having regard to the circumstances. including the nature of the offence and character of the offender, that it is inexpedient to inflict punishment  and that a probation order is not   appropriate, it may make an order discharging him absolutely or alternatively discharging him subject to the condition that  he commits  no offence during such period, not exceeding  three years from the date of the order as may be specified therein.”

A discharge under Section 204 counts as an acquittal.

Judge Niu said a prison sentence was inexpedient because it would deprives the accused’s one year of child of her love and care. A fine would not be appropriate since she could not pay it and she could not be sentenced to community work because she would need to be convicted. A suspended sentence would also be inexpedient.

He therefore discharged ‘Ala, therefore acquitting her of the charge of embezzlement.

The main points

  • The Supreme Court has discharged a woman who embezzled $22,500 from her employer.
  • Judge L.M.Niu ordered that the accused, Loleini ‘Ala, be discharged without conviction on the condition she not offend within the next two years.

The judge said he understood why she had acted as she did.

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