A judge and the police have both signalled a tougher line for petrol drive-off thiefs.
The harder approach emerged when a 34-year-old New Brighton man appeared in the Christchurch District Court to plead guilty to two drive-off thefts.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Iain Patton said Shane Gary Stewart had driven off without paying for petrol from stations at Redwood and Hornby.
He asked Judge Robert Murfitt to consider disqualifying Stewart from driving, which was the police policy in these cases.
Disqualification can be imposed where a vehicle is used to commit a crime.
Defence counsel Margaret Smyth asked that the driving ban not be imposed because it would pose difficulties for Stewart who lives at New Brighton but works at a freezing works at Burnham, south of Christchurch.
Judge Murfitt accepted that and did not disqualify Stewart, but he told him he had a policy of imposing reparations of three times the value of the petrol that was stolen.
He said the additional payment was for emotional harm for the service station owners who would have had to pay for stolen petrol out of their own pockets.
When people committed drive-off thefts, they were not stealing from some multi-national corporation, but from ordinary small business owners. “It costs them, and their children, and their households a lot of money.”
He told Stewart: “You are a man in a well paid job. You can’t claim poverty as some sort of pathetic excuse. You are simply a wilful thief.”
He tripled the value of the stolen petrol and imposed reparation payments totalling $443 on Stewart, as well as 40 hours of community work.