According to a report from ABC, Helen Marie Tolson – who worked for her father’s firm, Tolson & Co – took $1.96 million from trust accounts between September 2013 and August 2017, which was subsequently used to pay off personal debts, purchase two cars and support a business run by her husband.
It was reported that almost $978,000 was taken from the trust account of “an elderly woman in a nursing home”, and most of the other money was “stolen from the estate of a deceased woman”.
The West Australian District Court heard that she then falsified records to try to conceal her conduct.
Tolson’s counsel proclaimed that she “fully understood the gravity of what she had done”, and that actions such as falsification of records was done to “stave off the inevitable”.
Counsel argued that the conduct was undertaken in order to address family issues.
WA state prosecutor Peter Phillips said the offences were “some of the worst” that a lawyer could commit, describing them as a “horrific breach of trust”.
District Court Judge Belinda Lonsdale accepted that Tolson was “deeply ashamed and remorseful”, and noted it appeared that Tolson had been motivated by a desire to ease the financial pressures on her family.
However, she also determined that there was “an element of greed” involved, on the basis that some of the stolen funds were used for personal benefit.
Exacerbating the conduct was the fact that some of the stolen funds belonged to an elderly woman, which Judge Lonsdale described as “despicable behaviour”.
“Those who take advantage of the elderly will be dealt with by severe punishment,” she held.
Tolson pleaded guilty to nine stealing charges in total and will serve five-and-a-half years in jail before she is eligible for and can be released on parole.