Re­morse­ful looter jailed de­spite ap­peal

Townsville Bulletin - - News - by Roanne John­son roanne. john­son@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

A TEENAGER who looted neigh­bours’ homes af­ter they fled Cy­clone Yasi has been jailed de­spite a last-ditch at­tempt to apol­o­gise via a heart­felt letter to the court.

Nor­man Brown, who pleaded guilty in the Townsville Mag­is­trates Court yes­ter­day to two rob­beries and en­ter with in­tent, took more than $ 12,000 in prop­erty from three homes in Findlater St, Oonoonba.

The ex-Townsville State High School stu­dent gave a hand­writ­ten note ( edited ver­sion reprinted, in­set) to Mag­is­trate Howard Os­borne, ex­press­ing re­morse to his vic­tims, fam­ily and friends.

Brown penned the letter af­ter be­ing locked up for the past 29 days fol­low­ing his ar­rest and it read : ‘‘ I am truly and deeply sorry for my ac­tions.

‘‘ I am a de­cent and kind, lov­ing per­son who has just made the worst mis­take of my life . . . I am em­bar­rassed and very ashamed of my­self for what I have done.’’ Po­lice pros­e­cu­tor Sergeant John Mo­ran said that on Fe­bru­ary 2, 2011, sev­eral neigh­bours left Oonoonba af­ter be­ing warned a cy­clone would cause sea lev­els to rise, in­un­dat­ing their houses.

Sgt Mo­ran said Brown, 17 at the time, smashed win­dows to gain ac­cess to the boarded-up houses around mid­night at the height of the storm.

He took a Dell com­puter, jew­ellery, fish­ing rods and reels to the value of $ 11,870.46 from the first prop­erty, $ 162.80 cash from the sec­ond and a wicker bas­ket with $ 185 worth of al­co­hol from the third.

‘‘ It is rep­re­hen­si­ble be­hav­iour, by any­one’s stan­dards, break­ing into peo­ple’s homes when they’ve aban­doned them in an emer­gency,’’ Sgt Mo­ran said.

The pros­e­cu­tor said Brown was caught red-handed af­ter wit­nesses saw him stash­ing the stolen goods in a nearby Findlater St home where he was staying with friends.

De­fence lawyer Steve Erick­son said his client, a land­scaper, had been ‘‘couch-surf­ing’’ due to fam­ily trou­bles at the time when he robbed the neigh­bour­hood.

The de­fence lawyer said Brown, who cel­e­brated his 18th birth­day be­hind bars, looted while high on a mix­ture of speed and mar­i­juana.

‘‘ He is sad­dened by his ac­tions and the ef­fect they’ve had on peo­ple in the street,’’ Mr Erick­son said.

Mag­is­trate Os­borne, who ac­knowl­edged the apol­ogy letter, or­dered the de­fen­dant pay resti­tu­tion to his unin­sured vic­tims and cover the cost of the bro­ken win­dows.

The mag­is­trate ruled a pe­riod of im­pris­on­ment was ap­pro­pri­ate for the teenager who took ‘‘ sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage’’ of Oonoonba res­i­dents who left their homes dur­ing the re­cent nat­u­ral disas­ter.

Brown was sen­tenced to six months’ jail, sus­pended af­ter serv­ing two months, but will be re­leased af­ter one month due to time al­ready served in pre-sen­tence cus­tody.

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