Jeremy Powell leaves Tweed Heads Local Court last year. He was found guilty of falsifying documents to mislead a judicial tribunal on Monday afternoon.
Jeremy Powell leaves Tweed Heads Local Court last year. He was found guilty of falsifying documents to mislead a judicial tribunal on Monday afternoon. Blainey Woodham

Fraudster Powell avoids jail

A DECISION that Jeremy Powell told police was “pretty stupid” almost cost him his freedom at Tweed Heads Local Court on Monday.

When Powell was investigated by police for stealing $150 from the restaurant where he had worked, Amicis at Kingscliff, the 26-year-old created false witness statements from his colleagues to back up his side of the story.

Police quickly uncovered the truth, and when the statements were presented in court on August 19 last year, Magistrate Jeff Linden ordered Powell be investigated for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The investigation led to a charge of fabricating false evidence to mislead a judicial tribunal.

On Monday, Magistrate Michael Dakin considered the matter more than pretty stupid. He said it was a serious offence that struck at the very core of the administration of justice.

“There is no alternative other than to impose a custodial sentence, the only question is whether it should be suspended,” Mr Dakin said.

He decided to suspend an 18-month sentence because Powell had a limited chance of re-offending and was better off contributing to the community rather than being a burden on it in prison.

But the sentence came with a warning.

“Mark my words, if you break this bond, you will spend at least 12 months in jail,” Mr Dakin said.

According to police facts tendered to the court, Powell had taken legal advice and was told his prospects of success in defending his larceny matter relied on evidence.

He then made up statements for his fellow workers and signed them himself, spelling one of their names wrong in the process.

Powell’s solicitor, Cameron Bell, told the court the seriousness of the matter could not be underestimated.

“These are offences that are taken very, very seriously,” he said.

Mr Bell said he had spoken with Powell’s family and had spent considerable time with his mother.

He said Powell had been diagnosed with depression in 2001 and he had self-harmed.

He has worked in the hospitality industry for a number of years, including two at Amicis.

According to Mr Bell, the workplace ombudsman had made a ruling against Amicis since the initial argument.

“That is the background to which all this occurred,” he said.

Powell has relocated to Melbourne where he has gained employment, has maintained his medication and has been supported by family and long-term girlfriend.

Mr Bell said there was little chance Powell would re-offend.

Powell was convicted of larceny for taking the $150 at a Tweed Heads Local Court hearing on August 18.

For that offence, Powell was fined $473 and ordered to pay $150 in compensation

While Powell told others he had taken the money and left an IOU, it occurred after he had been sacked on the morning of Mothers Day, 2007.

Amicis owner John Slavic reported the incident.

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