Media release: VIC (Soulsby) – Bankrupt convicted of disposing of property

On 23 May 2019, Ms Michelle Cathleen Soulsby, also known as Michelle Attenborough, was sentenced in the Bendigo Magistrates Court, after pleading guilty to disposing of $86,908.89 prior to being made bankrupt and failing to advise her trustee of a change in residential address.

On 3 August 2016, Ms Soulsby was served with a Bankruptcy Notice showing that she owed in excess of $68,000 to Palmer, Stevens & Rennick Lawyers.

At the time she also received advice that she was to receive $160,000 from her ex-husband, to be paid to her solicitors Westminster Lawyers, as a result of Final Property Orders made in the Federal Court.

On 23 August 2016, Ms Soulsby filed a Declaration of Intention (DIO) to present a Debtors Petition with the Official Receiver, restricting creditors from taking action to recover their debts for 21 days. Ms Soulsby declared unsecured creditors totalling $203,038.00.

On 24 November 2016, Ms Soulsby received a property settlement totalling $120,000. A deposit of $60,000 was made to a newly opened account on 24 November with a second deposit of $60,000 made on 25 November 2016. The remaining funds were retained by Westminster Lawyers in payment of their fees.

Between 25 November 2016 and 7 March 2017, Ms Soulsby withdrew the balance of $120,000 and closed the account. Some of the money was used to pay for overseas holidays, beauty treatments and furniture.

On 14 March 2017, Ms Soulsby was made bankrupt by an Order of the court.

Around 10 June 2017, Ms Soulsby changed her residential address and failed to advise her trustee as required.

In sentencing, Magistrate Southby took into account Ms Soulsby’s mental health and substance abuse issues and agreed with the Prosecution submission that there was insufficient evidence for a causal connection between the offending and her mental health condition. His Honour noted that a Community Corrections Order would better be able to facilitate her rehabilitation when compared with imprisonment.

His Honour accepted the submission that general deterrence is very important with respect to offending of this kind because it impedes the effective regulation of bankruptcy. He also noted that her offending was aggravated by the fact that her creditors would be unlikely to recover the funds which she disposed of, which his Honour agreed was a significant quantum.

Ms Soulsby was convicted and sentenced to a Community Corrections Order for a period of 18 months with conditions that she complete 150 hours of community work over 18 months and undergo a mental health assessment and treatment as directed.

The matter was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions on behalf of the Australian Financial Security Authority.