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Mother accused of teen son's funeral fund fraud denied bail again

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A Townsville mother accused of fraud will remain behind bars where lawyers say she’s struggling to access counselling following the death of her 13-year-old son.

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Lawyers representing Lesley-Lee Hill, accused of misusing public donations raised for her son’s funeral, have told a court their client has not yet seen a grief councillor about her son’s death, despite her making more than 50 requests to do so while in custody.

Hill, 28, was again refused bail during a hearing at the Townsville Magistrates Court on Friday.

She is facing 16 charges including fraud, dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage, forging a document, receiving tainted property, breach of bail, and unlawful use of a motor vehicle.

It is alleged that she misused $3,650 raised through a crowdfunding page for her late 13-year-old son’s funeral.

He was killed alongside three other teenagers in the crash of an allegedly stolen car in June.

Hill was denied bail in early September, but lawyers put another application to the court claiming that there had been a material change in circumstances.

During the bail application on Friday morning, solicitor Merinda Greenwood told the court that Hill had been in custody for three months while lawyers and police conferred about several charges which are contested, including the charge of fraud.

Greenwood said communication between both parties had broken down and she asked police to provide a brief of evidence for all charges.

In her submission, Greenwood said during her time in custody, Hill had made more than 50 requests to obtain grief counselling, and had still not received any.

Greenwood told magistrate Scott Luxton that Hill was being kept in a “traumatic environment”, as she first learnt of her son’s death in June while she was in custody at the Townsville Watchhouse for unrelated incidents.

In opposing bail, police prosecutor Tasman Murphy told the court that Hill should not be eligible for bail as she posed an unacceptable risk of failing to appear in court, reoffending, and interfering with witnesses.

Murphy told the court Hill had already interfered with witnesses, telling them not to talk to the police and to lie to the police.

He said Hill posed a risk of interfering with the main witness in the prosecution’s case, Hill’s mother, who paid for the 13-year-old boy’s funeral.

Murphy told Magistrate Luxton that Hill had a “blatant disregard” for the provisions of bail, reminding him that the offences she was charged with happened after she was granted bail on compassionate grounds following her son’s death.

In his summary, Magistrate Luxton refused Hill’s bail application, citing the strength of evidence against her and the previous refusal of bail.

“The application was brought on behalf of the defendant who is facing a number of charges before the court,” he said.

“The charges are for serious offences of dishonesty, which are aggravated by the fact that the defendant was subjected to a combination of parole, suspended sentences, or bail at the time of the alleged offences.

“The defendant has a relevant history for like offences.

“It is my view at this preliminary point that the evidence is strong.

“In my view, that is supported by the initial refusal of bail.”

He noted that Hill had been granted bail on compassionate grounds before.

“That opportunity was granted to the defendant previously, and unfortunately further offending has occurred whilst subject to that bail,” he said.

“I make it clear that the applicant’s loss of her son would be a traumatic experience, but in determining the matter of bail my view is that the defendant has not demonstrated a material change in circumstance.

“The application for bail is therefore refused.”

The matter will return to court on January 29.

– ABC / Chloe Chomicki

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