Samantha Elizabeth Senescall
Samantha Elizabeth Senescall

Southwest pub owner sentenced in court for forging document

The owner of the iconic Federal Hotel in Wallumbilla narrowly escaped a prison sentence after a court heard she forged a signature on a development application to the Maranoa Regional Council.

Samantha Elizabeth Senescall and her then-husband made an application to the council for a three-stage development application for extra accommodation at the Wallumbilla Hotel during October 2017.

The court heard Senescall signed thd original application as a co-director, however she officially split from her husband on November 2, 2018.

The ex-husband declined to be involved in any ongoing development applications for the hotel and therefore didn’t sign any further documents, police prosecutor sergeant Heather Whiting told the Roma Magistrates Court on February 3.

The court heard that these works needed to be completed before a certain time frame.

But Senescall decided to sign both their names to a development application extension form on July 1, 2019 and the council contacted the ex-husband on July 26, who said his signature had been forged.

Sergeant Whiting said Senescall told police she signed her ex-husband’s name on the document because she was in danger of having the pub shut down if the development didn’t go ahead.

“The defendant initially stated she didn’t sign the [ex-husband]’s signature and after signing her own, she submitted the extension application to her engineering contractor for them to get the [ex-husband]’s signature,” sergeant Whiting told the court.

“When pressed on the process, the defendant acknowledged she did sign the [ex-husband]’s signature to the form and she had only done it because he was refusing to sign it himself and she was going broke running the hotel.”

Solicitor Michael Burrows said this was a “very very serious offence”.

He said Senescall’s hotel had about a 64 per cent drop in revenue during the COVID pandemic in 2020, and is her primary source of income.

She wanted to go ahead with the development to bring in another source of income than just food and drinks.

He said when the couple separated, Senescall kept custody of the hotel but the ex-husband held onto the family home.

Now, the ex-husband has his own business and is financially independent, which Mr Burrows believes could be a factor.

“She was feeling powerless in this situation,” Mr Burrows told the court.

Photo - Katarina Silvester
Photo - Katarina Silvester

Sergeant Whiting said this is a ‘serious’ offence and can lead to up to three years imprisonment.

“The courts and the community consider this a serious offence,” she said.

“In relation to Ms Senescall, she comes before the court with no history and fortunately, because they did contact the complainant Maranoa Council, she didn’t derive the benefit she was actually looking for in the first place.

“It’s a hard balance because a fine in this kind of circumstances is often not enough, but yet, probation and community service is not suitable in this case.”

Magistrate Peter Saggers told Senescall there are not too dissimilar cases where husbands have gone to prison for signing their partners’ signatures onto documents without their approval.

“The sergeant’s right - it’s a serious offence,” Magistrate Saggers said.

Senescall pleaded guilty to one count of forgery and uttering and got off with a $2500 fine and no conviction recorded.

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