Charges against former Western Health cashier tossed out

Gary
Gary Kean
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Barbara Mahar sits in provincial court in Corner Brook Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, during a recess in her preliminary inquiry.

CORNER BROOK - The former Western Health cashier accused of stealing money from the organization has been discharged of the criminal offences filed against her.

Barbara Mahar, 56, had been charged with theft over $5,000 and fraud over $5,000 for offences alleged to have taken place between April 1, 2011 and Feb. 29, 2012.

A preliminary inquiry was held in provincial court over the course of three days earlier this month to determine whether Mahar should be committed to stand trial on the charges.

Thursday afternoon, Judge Wayne Gorman rendered his decision, saying Crown attorney Ed Ring had failed to present sufficient evidence to warrant the matter proceeding to trial.

Gorman discharged Mahar on both counts.

Two witnesses were called during the preliminary inquiry. Const. Heather Wiseman of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary took the complaint from Western Health and conducted several investigative interviews. In court, one of those interviews was inaudible due to a technical malfunction Wiseman was unaware of until she was testifying in court.

This caused an adjournment during the inquiry. The technical difficulty was eventually resolved, but the person interviewed was never called as a witness.

The other witness was Devon Goulding, Western Health's vice-president of finance, who detailed the health authority's perspective on what happened.

Mahar's duties included obtaining and calculating funds for an automated bank machine at Western Memorial Regional Hospital. According to Goulding, there had been "an unreconciled balance from the previous fiscal year as well as [an] unreconciled balance for the current fiscal year which would have been 2011-12."

The estimate he provided to the court was in excess of $20,000, but Gorman noted that Goulding did not indicate how he was aware of this monetary figure or how Mahar would have been involved in the financial discrepancies.

Goulding testified that when he spoke to Mahar about the money issue, she indicated she had placed two personal cheques in with the bank machine deposits on Feb. 29, 2012 and taken out amounts in cash. He said Mahar assured him there was sufficient funds in her bank account to cover the two cheques, which were in the amounts of $550 and $700.

Goulding also told the court Mahar had told him she had been expecting money to be deposited in her account, but there had been some sort of misunderstanding regarding that.

"This was not explained further," wrote Gorman in his decision.

Goulding also indicated there were other Western Health employees who would fill in for Mahar when she was not working.

In his decision, Gorman said the allegations made by Western Health do not connect Mahar to the offences.

Both theft and fraud, noted the judge, require proof of an intention to deprive a lawful owner.

"The mere taking of something - or proof of deprivation - does not establish either offence," wrote Gorman, who did not read out or comment on any of the details of his decision in open court Thursday.

"There is in this case no direct evidence of any intent on behalf of Ms. Mahar to deprive Western Health of the monetary value of the two cheques."

The fact Western Health does not condone the practice of leaving cheques in and taking cash from the bank machine deposit does not prove any intention to deprive Western Health of funds, said Gorman.

"Remember, we are dealing with two cheques written on the same day and not concealed," the judge noted.

Organizations: Western Memorial Regional Hospital

Geographic location: CORNER BROOK

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