Burglar who trashed houses jailed

File image. © Andrew Bardwell

A thief and burglar with a $600-a-day meth habit caused “maximum mess and destruction” as he raided homes, said the judge who jailed him for four years six months.

Bewildered householders were left wondering why the burglar had taken sentimental items and documents that were of no value to him.

Christchurch District Court Judge Tom Gilbert said there was no hope of 31-year-old Barry Lee Stewart paying for any of the damage and losses totalling up to $143,000 he had caused.

Stewart was up-front and co-operative with police after he was boxed in and halted by road works in Marshland after a car chase on July 22.

He pleaded guilty to 38 charges including 10 burglaries, thefts from vehicles of high-value tradesmen’s tools, receiving stolen property, possession of tools for taking cars, possession of weapons, possession of a meth pipe, reckless driving, failing to stop for the police, and three breaches of bail.

The offending happened while he was on bail and also while he was supposed to be doing a 160-hour community work sentence imposed for $9500 in unpaid fines. He did 24.5 hours of that sentence.

His sentencing session got the impression Stewart was resigned to his fate. He told his lawyer Gerald Lascelles that he did not want any sentencing submissions put in, nor anything said on his behalf.

Mr Lascelles went against those instructions and said a few things anyway. He said Stewart had several children, and expected his jailing would have a significant impact on two of them, aged 8 and 3. He was developing a relationship with them. There was no violence involved in his offending, and he had been co-operative and remorseful.

Crown prosecutor Sophia Bicknell Young said the offending involved a significant amount of property being taken – up to $93,000 in the burglaries and $50,000 in the thefts. “He has caused great financial loss and inconvenience to a large number of victims.”

Judge Gilbert said he had read 20 victim impact statements. Householders told of homes being wrecked.

“You seem to have consciously made a decision to make as much mess and you can in some of these places. Only some householders had insurance, and they were put into extreme financial distress.”

They found the burglaries “horrifying and overwhelming”. One said: “You have taken things and memories from us, that meant the world to us.” Highly sentimental, irreplaceable items had been taken, which were of no value to Stewart.

Many tradesmen had had their ability to earn money and support their families curtailed by his thefts.

Judge Gilbert said Stewart had been stealing to fund a $500 to $600-a-day methamphetamine habit. “But that doesn’t explain the messy way in which you carried out the burglaries or the fact that you were taking personal documents that had no value to you.”

He had “created maximum mess and destruction” in some of the homes.

He said drug rehabilitation had been tried, but Stewart had discharged himself from Odyssey House after a few days. Some of the firearms taken in the burglaries had not been recovered and were now part of the criminal underworld.

He imposed a series of sentences totally four years six months, which meant the Parole Board would have a say in Stewart’s release date.

“They will want to see some concrete evidence that you have started to reform your ways and some sense that you have got on top of your drug-related issues that are at the root of this offending,” the judge told Stewart.

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