Mandurah church thief avoids immediate prison term

A Mandurah woman who stole more than $27,000 from a local church has walked free from court after being handed a suspended prison term on Tuesday.

Tanya Botes, who had pleaded guilty at an earlier appearance, faced Mandurah Magistrates Court on 14 counts of stealing as a servant.

The charges related to money stolen by Botes from the Church of the Way in Coodanup. At the time of the offences, Botes was employed by the church as an office administrator.

The court heard between April 20 and August 29, 2014, Botes failed to bank proceeds from the church op shop and parishioners’ church offerings, and kept a total of $27,209.91 for herself.

Botes’ employment was terminated by the church before her crimes were uncovered, but a 2015 audit found evidence of the offences and she was charged by police in September, 2015.

Counsel for Botes said her client, who had no previous criminal record, was embarrassed and ashamed of her actions, and had not even told her husband about the matter when he read about the offences in the local newspaper.

Botes’ lawyer said financially “things were tight” at the time of the offending, and her client had used the cash for electronics, food and sporting goods.

“It just got out of hand and out of control,” the lawyer said in accepting the offending was “extremely serious”.

Botes wept as Magistrate Vivien Edwards said she was of the view a term of imprisonment was warranted.

But the magistrate accepted Botes’ remorse despite the “gross breach of trust”.

Botes, who was heard to have undergone victim-offender mediation and been forgiven by the church pastor, was sentenced to seven months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.

She was also placed on an intensive supervision order with program requirements for 12 months.

Botes, who is currently working as a cleaner, must repay and outstanding amount of $16,226.26 to the church’s insurers. She has already repaid the balance of the debt.