Spending time behind bars

A former Australia MP who misappropriated political funds to feed his gambling addiction has received a 21-month prison sentence. Russell Northe was a Victorian Legislative Assembly member for 16 years before stepping away in 2022. He pled guilty to two counts of misconduct while being in public office.

cried as the judge imposed the sentence

His guilty plea meant that the 57-year-old got a more lenient sentence after using over AU$170,000 (US$107,993) of public money to fund his gambling. He cried as the judge imposed the sentence; Northe can apply for parole after 12 months inside.

An investigation by the Independent Board Based Anti-Corruption Commission led to Northe getting hit in 2022 with charges relating to 45 offenses. This was subsequently reduced to just two charges in January 2023 following the public office misconduct guilty plea.

Caught red-handed

Northe supplied false bank statements and receipts in an attempt to not return money to the Victorian Electoral Commission, claiming he spent AU$195,863 (US$124,422) running his Morwell electoral office when only AU$17,050 (US$10,831) were legit expenses. The commission conducts independent financial audits to determine how much money actually went towards expenses and initially signed off on Northe’s claims.

The authorities eventually discovered that Northe placed thousands of wagers using public money through Ladbrokes and Tabcorp apps, racking up significant debt in the process. In an attempt to cover up the misappropriation of public funds, Northe tried to claim that the money was for expenses like hiring, office equipment, and rent.   

Since Northe’s offenses came to light, he has been working at a local supermarket, earning about AU$700 (US$445) per week.

In handing down the sentence, Judge McInerney weighed the serious nature of the crimes and Northe’s frame of mind at the time of the offenses. He described the conduct as “sophisticated, protracted, and brazen” while also acknowledging the guilty party’s poor mental health and the hardships he will face in prison as mitigating factors. Northe will be on suicide watch when he starts to serve his sentence, with a report from his psychiatrist in January stating that the former MP wasn’t fit to stand trial due to his mental illness.

Long-running issues

Judge McInerney attributed some of Northe’s struggles to the stress relating to the Morwell mine fires in 2014 that led to widespread chaos, as well as the bushfires in 2019 that burned over ten million hectares of land in southeast Australia.

stepping away due to his gambling addiction, stress, and depression

Northe was a member of the National Party between 2006 and 2017, ultimately stepping away because of his gambling addiction, stress, and depression. Local media reported at the time that Northe had accumulated debt of more than AU$750,000 (US$476,438) to more than 30 local businesspeople, friends, constituents, and even his parliamentary leader Peter Walsh.

He served as an independent in public office and secured re-election in the subsequent state government ballot. He decided to not take part in the 2022 election and in his final parliamentary speech, he pushed for more support for people in Victoria who are battling addiction and mental health issues.

Source: https://www.vegasslotsonline.com/news/2023/10/25/former-aussie-mp-who-used-public-money-to-fund-gambling-addiction-gets-21-month-prison-sentence/