Appeals court confirms 10-year sentence for PMB secretary who stole R1,2?million

2014-02-28 00:00

HIGH court judges of appeal yesterday confirmed a sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment — of which three years was suspended — imposed on a Pietermaritzburg conveyancing secretary, Candida du Plessis, who stole R1,2 million from her employer.

Du Plessis had appealed to the high court to reduce her sentence to less than five years imprisonment, in terms of legislation that would have allowed her to serve the majority under correctional supervision.

Acting Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati with Judge Johan Ploos van Amstel, however, said the trial magistrate, Jennifer Anthoo, had correctly taken into account the seriousness and prevalence of the offence and the fact that Du Plessis stole R1 212 526,51 from her employer, Stowell & Company, on a total of 340 occasions.

Jeremy Brink — a director of Stowell’s insurers, Shackleton Risk Management, — had testified that the crime was prevalent in Pietermaritzburg, the judge said.

Poyo-Dlwati said the court had to send a clear message to Du Plessis and the community and also deter other would-be offenders.

“I am not persuaded that the sentence imposed by the trial court is disturbingly inappropriate or unreasonable or disproportionate to the personal circumstances of the appellant [Du Plessis] or her crime,” the Judge said.

The appeal court found in favour of Du Plessis that the trial magistrate had been wrong to find as an aggravating factor that Du Plessis wasn’t sincerely remorseful for her actions after accepting as true her plea explanation in which she said she was.

Despite that, they ruled that the sentence imposed on Du Plessis was correct.

It took into account the crime, the offender and the interests of society.

Acting Judge Poyo-Dlwati said the magistrate also considered evidence about Du Plessis’s personal circumstances, including the evidence of a psychologist and a correctional supervision official.

The psychologist, L.G. Holden, testified at the trial, among other things, that Du Plessis had a traumatic childhood and adolescence.

In her opinion, Du Plessis was not organised or devious, but rather someone of poor planning ability and financially impulsive.

Du Plessis’s daughter was four years old when she was jailed in 2012.

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