Squatters steal altar wine

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 13:30 10/01/2013

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Three squatters who stole altar wine from St Joseph's Catholic church over Christmas could well have to answer to a higher power, one of their defence lawyers suggested.

Considering they had broken into and stolen from a church, it was possible there could be ''a re-sentencing in another jurisdiction,'' Julian Hannam said.

In the New Plymouth District Court yesterday, Judge Allan Roberts described the burglary of a place of worship as the meanest possible offence.

''That you were driven to busting in the doors of a church is beyond comprehension,'' the judge told Troy Gilchrist, 21, who accepted a sentencing indication of 18 months in prison.

Gilchrist pleaded guilty to burgling at least six buildings near where he and two 19-year-old mates were sleeping rough in an empty property on Powderham St.

Plundering their immediate neighbourhood, the group stole anything they could get their hands on - in particular alcohol - taking it back to their base to drink.

They also used a doctor's computer, which had patients' private medical information on it, to play games.

Between December 21 to 28 they broke into three buildings on Powderham St and one on Vivian St.

Their targets included the church on Boxing Day, the Noradene medical rooms, a private marquee, the City West Medical Centre (where they were unable to get in because of deadlocks on the door), Telfer Young Taranaki Ltd and Laurie Jordan Accountants.

At St Joseph's Catholic Church they kicked open locked wooden doors to restricted areas. They took a laptop and ''of all things'', the judge said, bottles of altar wine.

A data projector worth $1500 taken from the accountant's office.

When an alarm was triggered at one premises when they tried to break in, the three hid and watched while the glazier and owner arrived and covered over a broken window.

When they left, they removed the plywood over the window and burgled the premises at their leisure.

The burglary spree was finally over when police raided the squat at 4am on December 28.

Among the stolen goods scattered around, police discovered the medical harddrive with confidential records on it.

In sentencing, Judge Roberts said he classed the burglaries at a  subsistence level.

However Gilchrist's criminal history made him a seasoned campaigner, the judge said.

He had amassed 38 convictions and 22 jail sentences, still had a significant amount of reparation outstanding and a future that was ''bleak in the extreme'', Judge Roberts said.

His co-accused, who were still to be dealt with by the courts, the judge described as ''graduates from the Youth Court''.

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If Gilchrist was convicted of burglaries in future it was unlikely he would attract a jail term of less than two years, the judge warned.

- Taranaki Daily News

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