Stealing computers should bring harsher sentences – judge

Stealing computer gear should be regarded as an aggravating feature at sentencing because of all the financial, personal, and sentimental details people store on them, said a Christchurch judge as he jailed a burglar.

Judge Raoul Neave jailed William Louis Ratima for two years four months, reducing the term for his guilty pleas at the Christchurch District Court and his efforts to beat his addictions.

Ratima received a gun-shot wound in the leg last year in an incident police said was gang-related, while the court process was going on. He was unable to get to court for at least one court appearance because of the injury from the shotgun blast. A man has been charged over the incident.

Fifty-year-old Ratima pleaded guilty in November to two charges of assault with a weapon, three charges of burglary, unlawfully taking a car, theft, unlawfully getting into a car, and driving while forbidden.

Judge Neave said: “It is of particular concern that amongst the items taken were electronic equipment and computers.

“That should be regarded as an aggravating feature in my view because increasingly, people store vast amounts of personal data and memories on computers.

“When these items are stolen – and almost invariably not recovered – people can lose large amounts of highly important material from a financial and sentimental viewpoint.”

It caused them considerable stress because they did not know who may have access to highly private data, and it raised the risk of identity theft, he said.

Defence counsel Lee Lee Heah said that while in prison on remand, Ratima had taken steps to address his drug and and alcohol issues which were clearly behind all the offending. Ratima had been keen to meet the victims of his burglary offences but none of the victims were interested. One had graciously said that he hoped Ratima would get the help he needed.

The victim of one burglary disturbed Ratima while he was doing the raid and took the keys out of his car. Ratima turned and tried to hit the victim with a crow bar, and the victim and a neighbour then tried to stop him leaving the property. Ratima picked up a rake handle and struck the victim with it. The pair were then able to hold him on the ground until the police arrived.

Ratima was ordered to pay reparations totalling $1400 to his victims.

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