A magistrate has ruled that a former childcare director accused of defrauding her own centre out of more than $400,000 should be committed to a higher court for trial.
Emma Louise Morton is now facing 110 counts of obtaining property by deception over allegedly stealing the money from her former workplace, after originally being charged more than two years ago.
It is alleged that while employed by a not-for-profit, which operated the Weston Creek Children’s Centre, she transferred money from the centre’s bank account to her own or her husband’s accounts and went on to purchase personal items.
At a contested committal hearing in the ACT Magistrates Court last month, the 49-year-old’s lawyers conceded that theft charges could be made out on a prima facie case that was alleged against her, but argued no deception could be found in these allegations.
The lawyers argued that as there was no reasonable prospect of a jury finding the element of deception, the court could not commit her for trial.
The alternative to obtaining property by deception, which is a fraud charge, is the charge of theft.
When Magistrate Ian Temby announced his decision on the contested committal on Friday (16 June), he said he was satisfied there was a reasonable prospect Ms Morton could be found guilty of counts of theft; however, whether she could be found guilty of obtaining property by deception was “less clear”.
He said Ms Morton had argued she was authorised to operate the not-for-profit’s bank account, so there was no act of deception.
She also argued there was no limit on her authority to access the not-for-profit’s funds.
But after considering the legal authorities, Magistrate Temby found he was not satisfied there was no reasonable prospect of a jury finding her guilty on her fraud charges.
He also said there was no unfairness to her to commit her to trial on theft charges, partly as it was a statutory alternative.
He ultimately committed her to the Supreme Court for trial on each charge before the court and adjourned for the first mention of her case in the higher court to be on 29 June.