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Pretoria - A former senior administrative clerk at the Heidelberg magistrate’s court, who after serving 23 years in the civil service, committed theft and fraud totalling nearly R450 000, received both good and bad news.

She will spend Christmas behind bars, but the Pretoria High Court reduced her seven years’ jail sentence to four.

Apart from reducing the 41-year-old mother of two’s sentence, Judge Tati Makgoka also ordered Correctional Services to ensure that one of its social workers visits the woman’s children at least once every month to find whether the children are being cared for by their father.

The judge said he had seriously considered alternative sentences for the woman, but white collar criminals must realise that their deeds cannot go unpunished.

The woman had pleaded guilty to 22 counts of fraud, seven of forgery and one of theft.

She has two children aged 15 and 12.

Since being fired by the Department of Justice, she had been employed as a secretary at a church.

Her duties as an administrative clerk at court entailed the keeping of the department’s deposit account.

During November 2005 to June 2007 she made false representations that amounts totalling R389 253 had been paid to social grant recipients.

On one occasion she withdrew R60 462 from her employer’s bank account and took it for herself. She returned R12 400 three days later. But the shortage was detected.

An investigation ensued and she returned R48 000.

A criminologist testified on her behalf and pleaded with the court for mercy. The court was told that there were many stress factors in her life, including that her daughter was allegedly sexually molested by a family member.

The woman chose not to testify, but told her lawyer that she misappropriated the money out of need and not greed. She said her husband was retrenched at some stage and then worked as an estate agent, but only sold three houses in two years. She was effectively the breadwinner.

The magistrate who sentenced her calculated that she stole on average R21 000 a month over 21 months.

Judge Makgoka said the woman clearly suffered in many ways. She embarrassed herself, her family and her church.

There is little likelihood that she would repeat the offences.

Pretoria News