A married Adelaide couple who faked death threats to score paid time off work have been handed custodial sentences, but the woman has been allowed to serve her time from home for the good of their children.
Simon Peisley and Tabitha Lean worked at South Australia’s Aboriginal health service when they sent dozens of threats to their office, home and their children’s school.
They faked about 80 threats that included letters, parcels, phone calls and vandalising their own home with tomato sauce.
Some of the parcels contained pieces of their children’s clothes stained with fake blood and were sent to their school.
The couple netted time off work and a family holiday to the Gold Coast because most of the threats related to their work, and they attempted to secure a compensation claim.
Peisley, 41, and Lean, 39, were found guilty in the District Court in November of more than 45 counts of deception over the two-year scam.
They have now been sentenced to non-parole periods of three years, but Lean was offered home detention while Peisley will serve his time behind bars.
Judge Barry Beazley said the pair’s “outrageous” and prolonged fraud was too serious to suspend the sentences but the state’s new home detention laws gave him another option for Lean.
“Parliament House has enabled you to serve the sentence on home detention,” he said to the mother on Tuesday.
“I am satisfied that it is not only in your best interests but also that of your children.”
The couple have three children, aged seven, 12 and 17 and the court heard they felt in fear of their own safety and that of their parents during the death threat ordeal.
The judge didn’t understand what drove the couple to undertake their campaign of deception given they were both in respected and well-paying jobs, particularly Lean who was a director of her department.
“You had a great deal going for you,” he said.
“Generally those who commit offences of this nature do so for financial gain.
“This is not immediately apparent in this case.”
As well as receiving time off and paid accommodation and medical bills, the couple also made a worker’s compensation claim.
The state government had agreed to pay a $580,000 settlement before Lean and Peisley were caught when police became suspicious and devised a plot of their own.
They were arrested after police covertly broke into their flat and marked envelopes and paper with “invisible ink”.
The next threat the couple handed over to police was tested with a UV light to reveal the markings the officers had made.
“The evidence at trial was overwhelming and the jury’s verdicts were inevitable,” Judge Beazley said.
During sentencing submissions, Peisley offered to take the fall and serve jail time in the hope this would keep his wife out of prison.
The father was sentenced to six years and six months in prison with a non-parole period of three years.
Lean was sentenced to six years and eight months of home detention with a non-parole period of three years, along with strict conditions including that she wear an electronic monitoring device.