Remorseful looter jailed despite appeal
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.