Police drop fraud case

POLICE have dropped a fraud investigation into two women sacked from the Interchange Respite Care service at Lismore 18 months ago over claims they misused thousands of dollars of the centre's money.

Margo Sten, the service's founder and former manager, and Di Hughes, its former co-ordinator, say the police decision to wind up the criminal investigation without laying charges vindicates their conduct while they were running the organisation and their assertions that they had done nothing wrong.

Richmond Local Area Command acting crime manager, Inspector Nicole Bruce, said the investigation into the two women had been "suspended" without launching criminal proceedings against them. The informant - the Interchange board of directors - had been advised to take civil action against the two women.

Civil court cases have a lower burden of proof than criminal cases. In criminal cases, prosecutors are obliged to prove guilt "beyond reasonable doubt", while in civil cases they need only show guilt on the "balance of probabilities".

Ms Sten and Ms Hughes claim to have been victims of a campaign to destroy them, orchestrated by people within the organisation. Interchange board members declined to speak on record to The Northern Star.

However it is understood they maintain their allegations against the two women and insist they followed proper procedures in dismissing them.

Ms Sten and Ms Hughes still have an unfair dismissal case active against Interchange.

That case is expected to be decided within weeks when the matter goes to a hearing before Fair Work Australia in Sydney.

It is understood Interchange will decide whether it will take police advice and pursue civil action - which one board member predicted would be a "lawyers' picnic" - against the pair after the unfair dismissal case is resolved.

Ms Hughes said she was also considering taking legal action against Interchange over the damage the allegations have done to her reputation and the impact they continue to have on her life.



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