ACT News

Case against alleged swim school fraudster thrown out on technicality

The case against a woman accused of defrauding a southside leisure centre by using her daughter's falsified timesheets has been thrown out on a technicality.

Judith McAllister, 62, was fighting two charges that she fraudulently obtained almost $50,000 while employed as a swim school co-ordinator at the Lakeside Leisure Centre in Tuggeranong between 2006 and 2011. 

She had been accused of adding hours to her daughter's timesheets that had not been worked.

Funds were allegedly transferred to her daughter's bank account for the work, and the mother was then allegedly given the money.

But the ACT Supreme Court trial of McAllister collapsed on Tuesday, after her lawyer Anthony Williamson pointed out a flaw in the Crown's indictment. 

The Crown, represented by Katrina McKenzie, had accused McAllister of fraudulently obtaining funds "to the value of" an exact dollar amount, rather than a range.

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The problem was, Mr Williamson said, the evidence could not possibly prove that exact amount had been stolen.

He said McAllister's daughter had given unchallenged evidence that she had worked the shifts relating to the first charge of fraud against her mother and at least some of the shifts relating to the second charge.

He said it had never been put to her that she was lying, and argued there was not a "scintilla" of evidence suggesting she hadn't worked the shifts.

The Crown, the court heard, had accepted they couldn't prove the exact amount had been stolen but believed the use of the phrase "to the value of" meant any dollar amount up to and including that specified on the indictment. 

Justice Richard Refshauge ruled on the no case application launched by the defence on Tuesday afternoon, and instructed the jury to enter verdicts of not guilty on both counts.

Justice Refshauge also refused an application by the Crown to change the indictment, saying it could be unfair to McAllister at such a late stage of the trial. 

He apologised to the jury, but joked that at least they'd received a free lunch on Tuesday. 

"It's highly technical and people might be critical of that, but unless we apply the law... we're on the slippery slope to anarchy," he said.

Justice Refshauge told the jury their time had not been wasted, and that a verdict of not guilty was as important as one of guilty.

He discharged the jury, and before leaving the bench said:

"Your client's now discharged Mr Williamson and I'll never get back the weekend."