Subway theft accused granted appeal

Last updated 13:01 12/04/2014

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A Subway worker accused of supersizing his take-home pay will have a chance to trim the sentence he received for loading up on illegal extras.

Joseph Sionetuato says he took $400 but police say it was $76,200.

A successful appeal has given Sionetuato a chance to try to convince a judge that the sentence should be based on a $400 theft.

Sionetuato was a sandwich maker for a Subway store in Porirua when he was caught taking $400 on August 30.

But police said surveillance cameras showed him taking money 24 times in the previous 17 days.

And from October 8, 2012, to August 29, 2013, police said he had stolen hundreds of bags of cash totalling $76,200.

Sionetuato had no previous convictions. A probation officer's report for the sentencing hearing in Porirua District Court in February said he disputed the amount taken and admitted stealing only $400.

The sentencing judge appeared not to have known of the dispute and sentenced him to 22 months and two weeks' jail because Sionetuato pleaded guilty to stealing $76,200. He was also ordered to repay $76,200 at $50 a week, starting two weeks after he left prison.

Sionetuato appealed and was now on bail awaiting a hearing where he could dispute the amount of the theft.

He and the lawyer originally acting for him both swore affidavits for his appeal to the High Court. Justice David Collins  had Sionetuato front up in court to be cross-examined on his written evidence, but the lawyer - now on maternity leave - was not asked to appear.

Sionetuato said he did not understand that he had pleaded guilty to taking $76,000 until his partner and a probation officer explained that was what he had done. He thought he had pleaded guilty only to taking $400 but that he might have to pay back more in reparation.

Collins said that seeing Sionetuato give evidence showed he had difficulty processing information conveyed to him by authority figures and he struggled to give answers he thought could be seen as impolite or unwelcome.

He said it was credible that Sionetuato did not understand he had pleaded guilty to taking $76,200.

He quashed the original sentence and Sionetuato is on bail pending a District Court hearing next week.

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- Fairfax Media

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