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Court of Appeal dismisses leave to appeal

01 March 2016

In Michelle Bellizia v The Queen [2016] VSCA 21, Bellizia had pleaded guilty in the County Court to three rolled-up charges of theft, spanning 131 offences committed over the period November 2011 and September 2013. Following a plea on 18 February 2015, Bellizia was sentenced on 10 March 2015 to an aggregate sentence of 15 months’ imprisonment with a Community Correction Order for 12 months for each charge.

Michelle Bellizia was employed by two separate businesses in Victoria during the period of offending. In that time, she transferred money from the businesses into her personal bank account through a series of fraudulent transactions, stealing $309,629.49 in total from both businesses. She was arrested and during a police interview expressed surprise at the amount of money stolen and disgust with her behaviour.

Bellizia spent large amounts of the money at gambling venues. She also spent the money on hotels and a holiday in Bali, as well as living expenses, bills and retail purchases. She had been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder with Anxious Distress as well as a Gambling Disorder.

After Bellizia had spoken with police about the thefts in Victoria and before pleading guilty, she relocated to New South Wales and began employment as a book-keeper in a real estate agency. She was later charged in New South Wales with a ‘blanket’ charge. The allegation was that between 8 December 2013 and 19 November 2014, she obtained financial advantage by deception, comprising of 27 transactions with the total funds obtained amounting to $39,068.07.

At the time of the plea, Bellizia had not been convicted of the New South Wales offending. However the substance of the subsequent offending was conceded by her counsel. The sentencing judge remarked that her claims of remorse did not sit well with the subsequent offending.

Bellizia applied for leave to appeal her sentence on the basis that the sentencing judge erred by having regard to the unproven subsequent offending when considering the weight to be placed on general and specific deterrence, as well as her level of remorse.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the application for leave to appeal, holding that the sentencing judge did not err in having regard to the Bellizia's subsequent New South Wales offending, for which she had not yet been convicted. The Court said that subsequent charges, if admitted and relevant, can be taken into account by a sentencing court. Further, the Court dismissed the application for leave to appeal pursuant to s 280(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act as there is no reasonable prospect that the Court of Appeal would impose a less severe sentence than the sentence imposed.

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