A prolific thief whose South Auckland court appearance two months ago resulted in a Covid-19 lockdown for part of Waikato has been sentenced to 16 months’ prison.
Manukau District Judge Yelena Yelavich did not address the Covid-19 diagnosis during the Thursday sentencing hearing, but she did point to the man’s long history of shoplifting and breaching of release conditions.
He was sentenced for 23 theft charges, one trespass charge and one count of breaching his release conditions.
The defendant, from Whakatīwai on the Firth of Thames, was tested for Covid-19 hours after a September 17 hearing at the same courthouse. The positive test result, while he was housed at Mt Eden Prison, triggered a scramble to alert contacts and sent a chunk of Waikato into a bespoke lockdown.
Authorities previously said the inmate might have caught Covid-19 during a meandering trip to his Whakatīwai home after he was given his first Covid-19 jab and released from Mt Eden prison on September 8.
GPS data from his electronic monitoring device suggested the 86km route took two hours, 19 minutes and included four stops – including private addresses in Mt Albert and Māngere and at a Pokeno supermarket. Bail conditions had required that he travel straight to his home without any unnecessary stops.
Authorities who reviewed the GPS data said he stayed at the address until visiting a carpark about 250m away. He presented himself to police after the court revoked his bail and issued a warrant for his arrest.
On Thursday, during a hearing in which the man appeared via audio-video link from a holding cell, defence lawyer Bridget Lawler acknowledged her client has a “quite prolific history” of similar theft offences. But it is something he now regrets, she said, explaining that he found himself stuck in a cycle of not being able to find employment due to his criminal history and then resorting to shoplifting again.
The defendant was involved in gangs when he was younger but that was no longer the case, Lawler said.
His theft charges included from multiple supermarkets, Rebel Sport, Sunglass Hut and a guitar store and included “whatever you could get your hands on”, the judge pointed out.
The total value of the stolen items topped $10,000 and there is little hope of him being able to pay restitution to the victims, all parties agreed.
While announcing her sentence, Judge Yelavich pointed to an assessment that found the defendant was considered a very high risk of reoffending. She also pointed to an interview in which the defendant said he wasn’t sure he wanted home detention because he believed it would mean law enforcement would be able to keep an eye on him for a longer period.
“I must say that attitude is not consistent with someone motivated to make a change in their lifestyle,” the judge said, rejecting his bid for home detention. “I do not consider you’re a suitable candidate for that sentence given the attitudes you have expressed.”
He was ordered to serve 16 months’ prison for each charge of theft greater than $1000, eight months’ prison for charges of theft between $500 and $1000, two months for charges of theft less than $500, two months for his breach of release conditions and one month for trespassing. However, all the sentences will be served concurrently.
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