By Jessica Howard
A female fuel thief who stole from a Ballan service station was disqualified from driving at the time, a court has heard.
Julie Panico appeared in the Bacchus Marsh Magistrates Court on Friday (May 12) charged with theft, driving while disqualified and driving an unregistered vehicle.
The court heard that the 47-year-old lost her license for six-months following a drink driving charge in May last year.
Four-months after the disqualification, on September 19, the accused entered the east bound BP service station in Ballan, where she filled her unregistered ford sedan with $38 worth of petrol before fleeing the premises.
Police prosecutor, Leading Senior Constable Lisa Schoemaker said CCTV footage of the theft was obtained by police.
She said the week that followed saw the accused drive the unregistered vehicle in Ballan on two occasions.
The first occurred on September 22 and the second on September 27, where the accused was arrested outside the Ballan IGA supermarket.
The court heard that Panico told police she was unaware her license was disqualified and had recently purchased the ford sedan with the belief that it was registered for another six-months.
In reference to the theft, she said she “drove off without thinking”.
Panico told the court that at the time of offending, she was living in Mt Egerton and was suffering from depression caused by domestic violence.
She said she had since moved to another town and was attempting to obtain employment in traffic and roadwork management.
“I have spent the last three months turning my life around,” she said.
Magistrate Mark Straptmann said the offending was “very serious”.
“You have driven with a disqualified license on two occasions in just one week…. That, and the theft, both constitute as serious offending,” he said.
“If you come back before the court, you will not only lose your license and potential job opportunities, but you could go to jail”.
Panico was convicted and fined $800, and was ordered to a six-month community corrections order with 80-hours of community work.