Row boat burglars admit island raid

Court House-Sept-2013-06Two Lincoln University students have admitted using a row boat to carry out the first burglary in 17 years on Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

The pair not only took property from the holiday home but caused $14,518 damage.

By the time they faced sentencing in the Christchurch District Court they had apologised and paid for all the losses.

They were asking for discharges without conviction but Judge John Strettell decided the burglary was too serious and refused to let them off.

Instead, Thomas William Sebald Steck, 22, and Richard John Tattersfield, 20, will each have to do 150 hours of community work, and they will have to live with the burglary conviction on their records.

Defence counsel for Tattersfield, Craig Ruane, said the pair would have to do a “walk of shame” when they returned to Great Barrier Island because of their “drunken, stupid, boorish escapade”.

They would return to the island, because they had been staying at a family holiday home there. It was a small community and everyone would know what they had done.

The burglary took place at 1am on April 13, when the pair went out in a row boat from where they were staying, to look at phosphorescent plankton. They had consumed “a significant amount of alcohol” and had become drunk, said Judge Strettell.

They rowed for 20 minutes around to the next day where there was a holiday house that was not occupied at the time. They tied up at a jetty.

They looked around the house and then Tattersfield kicked and smashed a glass pane in a French door and reached through to unlock it. They stole significant items and caused damage by breaking bottles on the floor, pulling items off the walls, and smashing solar panels and wiring with an axe they found in a shed.

They caused $14,518 in damage, and took items worth $3560. The pair later sunk some of the gear in the sea and drank some of the alcohol.

A day after returning to the house where they were staying, they ended their holiday and drove back to Christchurch. They then went to the Christchurch Central Police Station and told them what they had done. They were able to hand over some of the stolen property.

After they apologised and paid for the losses, the burglary victim was not opposed to the pair being granted a discharge without conviction. The victim said the whole Great Barrier community had been affected, and according to a local police constable it was the first burglary on the island for 17 years.

Mr Ruane and counsel for Steck, Cindy Lee, argued that the pair should be granted the discharge because of the likely consequences on their career prospects of having a burglary conviction on their records. It might also affect future travel plans.

Both are studying for degrees and were seen as a low risk of reoffending, said Miss Lee.

Discharges can be granted when the consequences of a conviction are out of all proportion to the gravity of the offence.

But Judge Strettell said it was a serious offence — a burglary involving so much property taken and damaged. He was not satisfied that the consequences were out of proportion. Although the pair had taken steps to right the wrongs, some offences were so serious that “they must have consequences for everyone”. He imposed the conviction and sentences.

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