Four cyclone school thieves sentenced
FOUR Brisbane men who stole electronics from Proserpine State School while completing asbestos removal following Cyclone Debbie, have narrowly avoided jail time.
Nak Chhoeun, Roeuth Ouch, Sovong Rin and Daravit Son were brought undone when a teacher from Prosperine State School discovered the school iPad was stolen and used the Find My iPhone app to track the device.
The four men arrived in the Whitsundays after Cyclone Debbie as part of their work with a Brisbane based construction company.
The men were at the school between April 11-14, during which time the iPad and other items were stolen.
After the iPad was tracked, the teacher’s father followed it to the Coral Sea Resort and the police were called.
When police searched their accommodation at Coral Sea Resort, they found the missing iPad but the men also produced a number of other items including 10 pairs of headphones, digital cameras, a hard drive, chargers, a laptop, assorted computer cables, a printer, an HDMI adapter, a pair of speakers, a USB stick and a stop watch, as well as stationery including pencils and rubbers.
After having their initial request to have the case moved to Brisbane denied by Magistrate Simon Young, the four men faced Prosperine Magistrates Court in person on Monday.
Duty lawyer Elizabeth Smith, who represented the four men, said they thought the building was unusable, abandoned and “effectively that all the items that were there were damaged goods”.
“They saw the items there and simply thought that no one wanted them and took them,” she said.
“They thought it had all been left and that it was free gain. They simply thought they could take it.”
Magistrate Simon Young was not buying it.
“They’re in a school. How could they possibly think these things are abandoned. It’s not like they found these in a tip,” he said.
Ms Smith said they never took any steps to see if the items were owned and that if they did “this would have never happened”.
“They saw the items there and it was opportunistic. There was no pre-planning,” she said.
Ms Smith said they had no criminal histories, were apologetic and remorseful and all the items had been returned.
In sentencing, Mr Young said “how they could confuse property in a school they were working on for asbestos removal as being property they can take away because no one want it makes no sense to me at all”.
“They were placed in position of significant trust in a vulnerable community, in a period of particular vulnerability... to have that trust abused is a disgrace,” he said.
“Some people would be happy to have you sent to jail and the key thrown away.”
All four men were sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and given immediate parole release.
“If you do not do what (parole) says, you will go to jail,” Mr Young warned.