Conviction stands for ‘devious’ theft

A Victorian pharmacist found guilty of 52 charges of theft for conduct described by the court as ‘glaringly dishonest’ has had his leave to appeal refused

A pharmacist who was sentenced to pay an aggregate fine of $26,000 – $500 per charge – as well as compensation of $2450 to his employer late last year, has had his leave to appeal against conviction refused.

The total sum found to have been stolen was $2670.

Aged 71 at the time of his conduct in 2011, the Elsternwick pharmacist could have faced up to 10 years’ imprisonment for the charges.

In December 2011, the pharmacist’s employer overheard a customer complain that the pharmacist had not given her change, and as a result he decided to review the pharmacy’s CCTV footage.

While reviewing the initial footage, the co-owner saw the pharmacist removing bank notes from the till drawer, then “surreptitiously” placing them into the pocket of his pharmacist’s coat.

The following day, whilst watching him, the co-owner observed the pharmacist remove $50 that had been handed to him by a customer from the till and placing the note into his side pocket.

At first, when the co-owner confronted the pharmacist he claimed the $50 was his.

When the employer showed him the footage from the previous day, the pharmacist immediately gave his verbal resignation, took off his coat and left.

In court the pharmacist’s defence to the charges was that on the occasions he could be seen taking money, he was simply replacing funds that he had provided when shop assistants had asked him to provide change.

However the employee was convicted of 52 of 59 charges of theft after a jury viewed available CCTV footage of the incidents.

In a recent hearing this month, the pharmacist appealed to the Supreme Court of Victoria arguing that the video footage was inadmissible.

His counsel claimed that the video footage played to the jury were only ‘excerpts’ and therefore, as some days of footage were incomplete, the trial judge should have excluded the evidence of CCTV footage.

The pharmacist also argued that the prosecution had failed to disclose till records and Methadone book entries, denied adequate time for the defence to properly consider the evidence, and not disclosed records relating to other staff members’ till transactions – occasioning a “substantial miscarriage of justice”.

On reviewing the evidence, Justices Chris Maxwell, Phillip Geoffrey Priest and Cameron Clyde Macaulay from the Supreme Court of Victoria’s Court of Appeal found none of the grounds had merit.

“The video footage proves the truism that a picture is worth a thousand words,” found the appeal court judges.

“No sensible person viewing the footage and witnessing the applicant’s behaviour could rationally conclude other than that his pocketing of the money was devious and glaringly dishonest, and that his explanation for his furtive conduct was utterly preposterous.

“We reject the notion that there was any doubt about the provenance of the footage,” they said.

“In our view, the time available between the product of the computer [till] records (and the Methadone book) and the empanelment of the jury was more than adequate for counsel to grasp the significance and import of the records, take appropriate instructions from the applicant and prepare such response as was available.

“Certainly no miscarriage of justice flowed from the documents being provided to counsel at the time they were.”

The judges added that any records relating to the transaction of other employees would have been “wholly irrelevant” to the case.

“None of the grounds has merit. Leave to appeal against conviction must be refused,” they ruled.

The pharmacist is no longer registered as a pharmacist with AHPRA.

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