Bendigo woman jailed over stolen emergency funds

A FORMER Victorian government employee has been jailed for two-and-a-half years for stealing more than $300,000 of emergency relief money meant for flood victims.

Rose Jamieson, 28, was working at the Department of Human Services in Bendigo when she stole more than 350 debit cards which were to be distributed to victims of the 2011 floods.

Jamieson used the debit cards at ATMs in the Bendigo area to access $319,840 which she then spent on travel and household goods.

She was working at the department's regional emergency centre, assembling relief packages for flood victims when the offending occurred.

Jamieson pleaded guilty in the Bendigo County Court  to four counts of theft, four counts of attempted theft and one count of dealing in proceeds of crime.

The court heard Jamieson activated each of the stolen cards, then transferred the money into a credit union account before moving the funds into a National Australia Bank account.

She was arrested in 2012 after staff noticed the cards were missing and CCTV footage revealed her making withdrawals from the accounts.

During the plea hearing, defence barrister Simon Gillespie-Jones told the court his client suffered from a "chronic mixed anxiety depression disorder" and argued her mental health contributed to the offending.

The court heard Jamieson had no prior convictions, but had previously stolen from family members.

Character evidence from Jamieson's relatives and colleagues described her strong work ethic and value to the community.

They also described a woman who had struggled to make friends and tried hard to make people like her.

Mr Gillespie-Jones urged the Judge to consider imposing a community corrections order with unpaid work, which could treat Jamieson's mental health and give her the best prospects of rehabilitation.

In sentencing, Judge Paul Lacava said Jamieson's offending had been opportunistic, and unlikely to occur again.

But, he said there was no real alternative for jail for such a "blatant and gross breach of trust" which occurred hundreds of times.

He said while Jamieson's depression may have partially reduced her moral culpability when the offending commenced, it did not account for the sustained and repetitive nature of the crimes.

Judge Lacava sentenced Jamieson to two-and-a-half years in jail, with a non-parole period of 15 months.

He said had she not pleaded guilty, he would have jailed her for four-and-a-half years, with a minimum of three years to serve.