How dad-of-five tried to get off drink driving charge
THE issue of a magistrate being able to trust documents given to a court are real is at the heart of an unusual North Coast fraud case.
A Northern Rivers paralegal made up a fake reference from a person who did not exist in the Rural Fire Service to get a lighter penalty for driving offences.
Walking with the aid of a cane, Stuart James Amos appeared in Tweed Heads Local Court on December 2 to plead guilty to two charges including making a false document to influence exercise of public duty and perverting the course of justice.
Court papers reveal the 50-year-old was charged on four separate occasions between March and April last year for drink driving, two counts of driving while suspended and not mentioning his suspension in a licence application.
Character references for Amos were given to the Byron Bay Local Court magistrate on July 24 when he was being sentenced for the four charges.
While sentencing the father-of-five, the magistrate said the references were "outstanding", which contributed to a lighter penalty.
As a result Amos was convicted, lost his licence for three months, received a 12-month community release order and a 12-month interlock order with a $300 fine.
One of the references was by the name of 'Greg Burns' who claimed to be the president of the Byron Bay Rural Fire Station and the reference was written on an official RFS letterhead.
Inquiries found Greg Burns was not the president of the Byron Bay RFS and there was no record of any Greg Burns ever being affiliated with any NSW RFS station.
The faked reference said Amos was a RFS volunteer member between 2000 and 2016 but police found Amos actually began with Byron RFS in January 2002 and his service was terminated in May 2012.
He was booted from the station after an internal investigation found Amos 'not to be a fit and proper person' to be a member of the RFS.
Court documents revealed the Skennars Head man has an extensive criminal history in South Australia before he moved to NSW, including 107 charges for fraud-related offences from 1988 to 1994.
A search warrant was executed in May 2020 on Amos's house and his laptops, mobiles and a USB was seized for being suspected of being used in manufacturing false documents.
Barrister Peter O'Connor, instructed by defence solicitor James Fuggle, tendered a psychologist report claiming Amos suffered of a major depressive episode at the time of the offence which was related to dealing with a fibromyalgia diagnosis in his foot.
He submitted his client had reduced moral culpability in the crime because of his mental state.
Mr O'Connor said Amos had a "bit of a hard start in life" and had a history of dishonesty resulting in prison time in 1994 but there was a gap in offending of 24 years.
Mr O'Connor argued Amos' five children, aged eight to 15, could be split up if he were to go to prison, and coupled with his fibromyalgia, this would make his time behind bars harder than most.
Police prosecutor Nathan Lockett said this type of offending called for a strong stance of general deterrence.
"Judicial officers need to be able to take documents put before them at face value otherwise everyone would be called as a witness," he said.
"They need to be able to trust the document put before them is by the person the document refers to."
Mr Lockett said it was a difficult type of fraud to catch and when it was found out "it needed to be denounced in the strictest of terms."
He said the offence showed high degree of planning, did not occur spontaneously and had made Amos's unknowing solicitor an unwitting accomplice.
Mr Lockett said due to Amos' work as a paralegal he had an in-depth understanding of the legal system and understood the seriousness of the crime.
Magistrate Geoff Dunlevy reserved judgment and the case will return for sentence on December 8.