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Sentencing of puppy thief and ‘calculating’ fraudster is delayed

The sentencing of a “clever and calculating” fraudster was set back yesterday so Court Services can look at further options for treatment.

Former caregiver Wendy Francis, 40, has pleaded guilty to a total of 37 dishonesty offences in connection to five matters, including stealing a puppy, credit cards and conning five would-be car buyers out of their deposits.

During a sentencing hearing yesterday, prosecutor Takiyah Burgess told Magistrates’ Court that the defendant had a long list of previous convictions and committed two sets of offences while already on court bail.

She said that the community needed to be protected from Francis, and that the offences committed on bail should be given consecutive sentences to the others.

Overall, Ms Burgess suggested a sentence of two years imprisonment for the first 29 charges, followed by a sentence of nine months to a year for the remaining offences.

Defence lawyer Rick Woolridge, however, said that Francis clearly needed the kind of treatment that cannot be provided in prison.

“She’s ready to get help,” he said. “Sometimes people need to wait until they are on the brink of collapse before they can be reformed.”

He noted her repeated past offences, saying she has been before the court for dishonesty offences on 12 occasions and that doing the same thing and expecting a different result was the very definition of insanity.

“What is more dire is if we continue to do the same thing by locking her up and expecting to fix it,” he said.

Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo however asked: “What is the treatment and what is the reformation and who is recommending it? The Department of Court Services is not. The psychiatrist is not. Who is supporting it?

“This lady has been calculating. She is clever. She has been talking about impulses but the contradiction is the skilfulness and the cunningness that goes into her activities.”

He called Francis an intelligent but troubled woman, saying: “Do you know how many people can’t get jobs right now? She can get jobs, good jobs, even with her record, but she’s dangerous. She’s dishonest.

“She tells the social worker she didn’t commit the offence with the cars. She didn’t do that. It was another person. She admitted that she was the person to the police. She told the psychiatrist something different again. Clearly something is wrong.”

Mr Woolridge told the court that there was some indication in the psychiatric report that indicated she may suffer from a form of post traumatic stress disorder due to an incident in her past, and the courts needed to take another look at the option available to them.

“Something is working or not working in her mind that is making her come up with this different stories,” Mr Woolridge said. “The psychiatrist says there is a need for further evaluation.

“It doesn’t hurt the victims, it doesn’t hurt justice and it doesn’t hurt anyone if we take half a step back.”

Mr Tokunbo adjourned the sentencing until later this month to provide the Department of Court Services with the psychiatric report and a letter written to the court by Francis for further recommendations. Francis was remanded into custody until then.

Wendy Francis

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Published January 11, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 10, 2013 at 10:56 pm)

Sentencing of puppy thief and ‘calculating’ fraudster is delayed

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