Centrelink charges dismissed

A KYOGLE mother who denied defrauding Centrelink of $31,000 burst into tears and hugged and kissed her defence lawyer outside a Lismore courtroom after Commonwealth charges against her were dismissed because of depression and mental health issues.

In evidence, Elisabeth Hollis, aged in her 40s, stated her ignorance and put any blame on her husband, Brian Hollis, because she ‘trusted him’ to take care of all householdfinances, including Centrelink payments, because anything to do with money caused her stress.

Hollis claimed she never read the Centrelink Parenting Payment claim forms, but agreed in Crown cross-examination that although it was her signatures it was not her who wrote other details on the forms.

The Crown said the offences were between 2003 and December 2006 and Hollis had since repaid more than $7000 she received in overpayments (by not declaring her husband’s full income).

When questioned by herlawyer, Rachael Thomas, the mother-of-three revealed she had suffered very difficult pregnancies and been diagnosed as suffering anxieties and severe depression over many years.

Hollis said her husband was good with figures and she never withdrew money from their bank accounts because he left her money when she needed it.

“It’s Brian’s writing,” she said (on the Centrelink form shown to her).

“Usually Brian doesn’t go through it. He just say’s ‘I need your signature’.”

Ms Thomas asked if sheever queried her husband on the contents of the forms and Hollis replied ‘no’.

“If Centrelink phoned me up on anything financial I’d say I don’t know anything about it and they would have to talk to Brian,” she said.

Hollis said she never opened or read business letters, but because one letter from Centrelink looked different she opened it and dis-covered that there had beenin excess of $30,000 in payments.

“I freaked out. Thirty thousand dollars,” she said.

“Where did that come from and I panicked.”

She admitted to now being ‘ashamed’ she had never asked her husband any questions.

After considering all evidence including medical documentation, Magistrate Robyn Denes said she would dismiss the matter on the grounds Hollis had a mental illness and was under medical care.

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