Appeal denied for jailed legal secretary
12 Jun 2012
PIETERMARITZBURG regional court magistrate Jennifer Anthoo yesterday turned down an application by former conveyancing secretary Candida du Plessis for leave to appeal against her prison sentence.
A few hours earlier the high court in Pietermaritzburg granted a final order sequestrating Du Plessis’s estate.
Du Plessis (40) was sentenced to an effective seven years’ imprisonment for stealing R1,2 million from her employers, Stowell & Company, over three years. She pleaded guilty.
Her advocate, Gideon Scheltema SC, submitted yesterday that the sentence imposed on her was unduly harsh and severe.
He submitted that the regional court had erred in not imposing a sentenced which would have allowed Du Plessis to be placed under correctional supervision after serving a period of imprisonment.
He said such a sentence would have allowed her to do extended community service, attend a reputable course in financial management and receive necessary psychotherapy.
He argued that the court had placed insufficient weight on the fact that Du Plessis’s actions were influenced by “traumatic events she was subjected to for her entire life until she reached the age of 25”.
During the trial a psychologist gave evidence in camera, which the media was barred from reporting.
Scheltema submitted yesterday that Du Plessis’s conduct was “not motivated by greed but rather by factors of a complex, unique and exceptional psychological nature which reduced her moral blameworthiness”.
The court had found that she had acted in a devious manner when there was no evidence of inherent deviousness, and had erred in finding Du Plessis had not shown genuine remorse.
Scheltema submitted the court was bound by what was said by Du Plessis in her statement when she pleaded guilty and which was accepted by the state. He suggested the court was wrong to find that the fact that Du Plessis had exploited poor internal controls at her firm was an aggravating factor.
Anthoo said she had fully considered all evidence led in mitigation and aggravation of sentence.
She was satisfied that there was no prospect that another court would rule that the sentence imposed on Du Plessis was shocking or inappropriate.