Mum falsely claims ACC cash

A 49-year-old Blenheim woman falsely claimed more than $18,000 in financial benefits from the Accident Compensation Corporation, a court has heard.

Former part-time cleaner Catherine Smythe yesterday pleaded guilty to dishonestly using a document, namely an ACC44 declaration form, on February 16, 2010.

The Blenheim District Court heard that, after the death of her live-in partner Sean Mortensen, she filled in the declaration form claiming that her three children by another marriage were in the fulltime care of herself and Mortensen at the time of his death.

Mortensen died in a forestry accident in the Marlborough Sounds on January 20, 2010.

The ACC accepted the information given that the children were Mortensen's dependants. Grant aid and weekly compensation payments were given directly to the oldest child and the two younger children received financial assistance via payments to Smythe. These payments were backdated to the date of Mortensen's death.

An investigation was launched in January last year into Smythe's entitlements and uncovered an overpayment of $18,140..

Crown prosecutor Sophie O'Donoghue said Smythe gave false information to ACC to claim benefits.

The two youngest children had been in the care of their natural father since May 2007, she said. On February 14, 2008, a parenting order was made at Blenheim Family Court that their father had full responsibility for their care until they were 16.

The children were able to spend one night a week and alternative weekends with their mother. Defence lawyer Rob Harrison said the custody order was in favour of the children's paternal father.

"Despite the custody order, there was to-ing and fro-ing of children between the houses which was much more fluid than the order [stipulated]."

The children had their own rooms in both houses where they kept their clothes and toys, Harrison said.

Following the death of Smythe's partner she had used the guidance of one of her daughters to fill out the ACC forms, he said.

"This is someone who is not particularly literate. When she came to filling out the forms she was not in good shape. She had crawled into a bottle to deal with her grief. She was not dealing with the death of her partner."

Harrison said Smythe would be banned from working in government departments on conviction. She was living off ACC survivor's grant and was struggling to look after her children, he said.

Judge Chris Tuohy ordered an affidavit from a former employer of Smythe's to confirm if a conviction would impact her employment prospects.

He also ordered a statement detailing the likelihood of Smythe seeking employment.

Sentencing was adjourned until June 10.

The Marlborough Express