Concerns have been raised about the release of convicted fraudster Samantha Azzopardi from jail after she told her lawyer she wanted stay with an aunt in northern NSW but refused to provide the woman’s address or other contact details.
During a sentencing hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday, prosecutor Kristie Churchill said the lack of disclosure from Azzopardi about where she would stay on her release was a concern.
Samantha Azzopardi has been diagnosed with a severe borderline personality disorder and a rare condition called pseudologia fantastica, which manifests with extreme lying.
“There is a pattern of offending in Ms Azzopardi’s case where she moves from location to location and assumes identities and creates sophisticated backstories,” Ms Churchill said. “We don’t know where she intends to go and what she intends to do.”
Azzopardi is being sentenced after she pleaded guilty this week to three counts of child stealing, obtaining property by deception, handling stolen goods, theft and causing a false report to be made to police, relating to offending which began in mid-2018.
She was arrested on November 1, 2019, after she went to a Bendigo youth mental health service in a blue school uniform, in the company of two young children, pretending to be a 14-year-old pregnant teenager. She was caring for the two girls after conning a family into believing she was a qualified live-in nanny
Police arrested the 32-year-old in the cosmetics section of Myer in Bendigo and the children were returned to their parents unharmed.
On Wednesday, Azzopardi appeared via video link from jail. She spoke only to confirm she could hear proceedings and kept her head in her hand, looking at the floor throughout.
Azzopardi’s lawyer, Jessica Willard, previously told the court her client had already spent 570 days in custody and should receive a good behaviour bond on top of time already served in jail.
However, the prosecution said a community corrections order – with conditions that make mental health treatment mandatory – was more appropriate.
The court previously heard Azzopardi had been diagnosed with a severe borderline personality disorder and a rare condition called pseudologia fantastica, which manifests with extreme lying.
On Wednesday, Magistrate Johanna Metcalf said Azzopardi had been assessed as not suitable for a community corrections order.
The woman’s family were in touch with her legal team on Tuesday, but none of them were able to offer her a place to stay on her release, the court heard.
Ms Willard said a corrections order was excessive and argued a good behaviour bond would allow Azzopardi to live in northern NSW and connect with local mental health services.
But Ms Churchill described this as a “rather ambitious plan”.
“She is 32 years of age with an extensive criminal history,” Ms Churchill said. “Nothing has been put in place … it’s simply release directly out into the community. That in my submission won’t meet sentencing [objectives] in this case, one of which is the rehabilitation of Ms Azzopardi.”
Ms Willard confirmed that her legal team had not had any contact with the aunt referred to by Azzopardi. She said her client had been reluctant to give the contact name or address of the relative, which was “most likely due to media attention this matter has had”.
The court took a short break during which Ms Willard tried to get Azzopardi to provide her with the address. However, when the hearing restarted, she said: “No luck with the address, but I will persist.”
The magistrate said her concern was that there needed to be some form of mandated treatment for Azzopardi’s rehabilitation, to address the risk of reoffending and for the community’s protection.
“It’s just unrealistic, I think, to expect this accused to take on board her own mental health rehabilitation, particularly with some of the complex issues that have been … referred to at the plea. That’s the dilemma for the court.”
She assured Ms Willard and Azzopardi that the address would be kept confidential and warned that not disclosing it was making sentencing more difficult.
“Your client’s unwillingness to divulge these matters … makes me wonder if there are other reasons. I don’t know,” she said.
The case continues on Friday.
Start your day informed
Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Get it delivered to your inbox.
Most Viewed in National
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article