Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Disability Support Pension fraud leads to jailtime for WA woman

Year: 
2020-2021
Category: 
Revenue and Benefits Fraud
Location: 
Western Australia

Date of Judgment: 4 December 2020

Court: District Court of Western Australia at Perth

Partner Agency: Services Australia

Summary of charges:

Dianne Lillian Melvin (also known as Dianne Lillian Markland) was charged with one count of defrauding the Commonwealth contrary to s.29D of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth); and one count of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception from a Commonwealth entity, contrary to s.134.2(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).

The maximum penalty for each of the offences was 10 years of imprisonment.

Synopsis:

Between 10 October 2000 and 28 October 2010, Ms Melvin dishonestly obtained a total of $94,633.33 in Disability Support Pension (DSP) payments from Centrelink to which she was not entitled. At all material times, Centrelink believed that Ms Melvin was single, based on false information provided to Centrelink by Ms Melvin in October 2000. In fact, Ms Melvin was a member of a couple with Mr Alan Markland throughout the 10 year period. The overpayment reflects the difference between the single and the partnered DSP rates – also taking into account the proven combined assets of both Ms Melvin and Mr Markland.

The DSP payments were suspended in November 2010 after the execution of a search warrant at the jointly-owned property and a formal record of interview conducted with Ms Melvin. An administrative debt was raised. Ms Melvin sought internal reviews of the debt before it was partially overturned in the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) in 2013. In 2014-2015, the then Department of Social Services successfully sought a review of that decision in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). In 2015-2016, Ms Melvin unsuccessfully sought judicial review of the AAT’s decision in the Federal Court. Charges were preferred against Ms Melvin in July 2017. A three week trial was listed to commence on 20 October 2020. However, on 16 October 2020 Ms Melvin pleaded guilty to all counts.

Key points:

The sentencing judge emphasised the need for general deterrence in sentencing offenders for sustained and deliberate fraud on the Commonwealth. This was a serious case in which Ms Melvin consistently denied being in a relationship with Mr Markland throughout the years. It was accepted that there was an element of greed to her offending. His Honour also accepted Ms Melvin experienced a number of serious health issues and a term of immediate imprisonment would impose a greater burden upon her. Nevertheless, in all the circumstances, the judge determined that only a sentence of immediate imprisonment was appropriate.

Sentencing:

Convicted after entering pleas of guilty to all counts and sentenced as follows:

  • Count 1 (s.29D) – six months imprisonment (to be cumulative on count 2);
  • Count 2 (s.134.2) – two years and six months imprisonment (to commence on the day of sentence).

Total effective sentence of three years of imprisonment with nine months to serve before being released upon giving security in the sum of $1000 and entering into a recognisance release order to be of good behaviour for two years and three months.

Reparation ordered in the sum of $32,392.89.