Jail for Ballina Shire dad-of-five over fake letter
A NORTHERN Rivers paralegal who faked a reference letter to get a lighter penalty in court has been sent to prison.
Stuart James Amos did his best to avoid being photographed by media as he walked into Tweed Heads Local Court to hear his sentence on Tuesday.
Magistrate Geoff Dunlevy reserved judgment for five days after the father-of-five pleaded guilty to making a false document to influence exercise of public duty and perverting the course of justice on December 2.
The Skennars Head 50-year-old 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.
Court papers revealed Amos was charged on four separate occasions between March and April 2019 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 this year when he was being sentenced for the four charges.
During his sentencing, the Byron Bay residing 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.
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.
Mr Dunlevy slammed the fraud, explaining firefighters drew from a "deep well" of moral character because they continually put their life on the line for the benefit of the community.
He said Amos, who had appeared with leave for clients in the Local Court previously, had in-depth knowledge of the law system and knew the seriousness of his offending.
Mr Dunlevy said Amos's criminal history, including time served in prison, highlighted he was "aware of the consequences of dishonest conduct".
He explained local courts "would grind to a halt" if character references for every case needed to be called as witnesses in person.
"Solicitors and barristers do not have the time and resources to speak with every person presented as a referee," Mr Dunlevy said.
"So there is an underlying trust and the vast majority of references presented to the court are genuine ones."
Amos was convicted and sentenced to an aggregate term of imprisonment of 18 months with a non parole period of six month.
Amos will be eligible for parole after midnight on June 7, 2021.