A laughing woman was ordered out of court as the sentencing of determined burglar and receiver Matthew John Woods began in the Christchurch District Court.
“Well, well, well…here we are,” said the woman, laughing, as 44-year-old Woods was brought into court from the cells to be sentenced on almost 50 charges.
Judge Tom Gilbert ordered her straight out of court, and she left the public seating. He also told a younger man in the public seating that could also leave if he found it funny. He stopped smiling.
Woods admitted 27 charges of receiving stolen property, eight charges of burglary, possession of cannabis, morphine, and methamphine, failing to stop for the police, breach of a community work sentence, and five charges of obtaining items by deception.
Crown prosecutor Chris White said three of the burglaries were of units in a residential complex which were under construction and near completion. Other courts had seen those circumstances as “taking advantage of the Canterbury rebuild”.
Defence counsel Tim Fournier said it was clear that Woods would not be considered for release from prison until he had completed a drugs rehabilitation programme. Because of his addiction, he “reverted to type” when under stress. A drug and alcohol assessment had now been completed.
Police went to a Sydenham address looking for Woods on August 23, because he was wanted on a warrant to arrest.
They found a large amount of stolen property at the address, linked to burglaries in which property worth well over $200,000 was taken over the previous 18 months. They included commercial properties and holiday homes. Property was also found at other addresses linked to Woods, but he was not found immediately. He was arrested after a driving incident which ended with a 24km police pursuit and road spikes being used in early September.
The Crown alleges property worth about $130,000 was received by Woods who had “created a market for burglaries to take place”, according to Mr White. Some of the items had been recovered and returned to the victims.
Judge Gilbert said Woods’ burglaries involved him taking items worth $65,000 and causing $14,000 damage in the process. His frauds involved him booking up purchases worth $8000 to a South Canterbury dairy company he worked for.
The judge described Woods as “a professional receiver” who had acted as a clearing house for burglars. Goods were targeted because of their high value and easy saleability.
“Your offending was prolific. I suspect that the full extent of it may never be known. You have left endless people in your wake. People’s homes were interfered with and items of sentimental value were taken which will never be recovered.”
Woods had 50 previous convictions for dishonesty, and others for drug and driving offences and failing to comply with court orders.
He had a period of nine years when he did not offend, but resumed in 2015. “Things unravelled when the share-milking operation you had bought into went downhill as a result of the reduction in milk prices and you started using methamphetamine and cannabis. You say you offended to fund that habit.”
Judge Gilbert imposed concurrent sentences totalling seven years six months with a three-year six-month non-parole term before Woods can be considered for release. He also disqualified him from driving for 15 months.
He ordered that $18,500 found in a compartment in his car be forfeited and paid proportionately to the victims.