Ashlee Walker leaves Bundaberg court on Friday.
Ashlee Walker leaves Bundaberg court on Friday.

Mum who stole to gamble ordered to repay $13K to hotel

MUM-of-two Ashlee Walker has been sentenced to nine months jail and ordered to repay nearly $13,000 she stole in pokies money from the Young Australian Hotel.

In what Bundaberg Magistrates Court heard was a serious breach of trust by an employee, Walker, 29, wasted all the money she took gambling.

Magistrate Belinda Merrin accepted Walker had a gambling addiction when she went back before her to be sentenced after pleading guilty earlier this month to stealing $12,957 as a clerk/servant.

At the time of offending, police prosecutor Senior Constable Andrew Blunt said Walker was employed in the gaming area of the hotel when its owners realised money was missing.

The stealing took place over 20 months, between August 13, 2015, and March 10 this year.

Walker admitted to stealing amounts of $500 or $1000 when picking up the day's cash takings then visiting other venues to gamble the money.

A victim impact statement was given to the court from hotel owners Harry and Margaret Bonanno and defence lawyer Rian Dwyer put forward precedent cases on sentencing, including appeal judgments on similar types of offending.

Walker sought for no conviction to be recorded.

"There has been fallout. It made it to the newspaper on page one and comments have been made. Personal deterrence (has) been achieved," Mr Dwyer said.

"There have been consequences for her and will be further. She is not in a financial position to repay."

Ms Merrin told Walker the maximum penalty for the offence was 10 years jail.

"You stole a significant amount of cash from your employers. In the context of being a family-owned business, that is a significant loss," she said.

"And at the moment no immediate prospect of repaying the money as you gambled all that money away. To date no repayment has been made."

"You were given a position of trust and you breached that.

"Mr and Mrs Bonanno feel betrayed. They gave you a job and you were considered a valuable team player."

Ms Merrin said she adjourned the matter before to consider penalty, and the defence submission to place her on probation and not record a conviction.

Consideration of Court of Appeal decisions by Ms Merrin showed that a non-conviction was not appropriate. She said that ordinarily such offences attracted a jail term to show a community's great disapproval of such conduct.

Ms Merrin sentenced Walker to nine months jail, immediately suspended for 18 months.

She ordered Walker to repay $12,957 and a conviction was recorded.

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