Charity box thief sent back to prison
A Nelson man with a history of stealing from charity boxes and tip jars to sustain his drug habit has been sent back to prison for doing it again.
Unemployed 27-year-old Jason Peter Rochford pleaded guilty in the Nelson District Court to five counts of shoplifting and one charge of stealing cash, through his lawyer Brett Daniell-Smith.
He had earlier denied the shoplifting charges and elected a trial by jury, despite police evidence from CCTV footage capturing him red-handed at one scene.
Mr Daniell-Smith said Rochford took the money during a short period of time, to sustain his long-standing drug habit. His client accepted that a prison term was inevitable as he had previously been sent to jail for the same crime.
Prosecutor Chris Stringer said Rochford's latest shoplifting spree started on June 14 when he took $200 from the till of a Halifax St bakery.
He said Rochford's modus operandi was to steal cash from tills, tip jars and charity boxes, while the person serving him at the shop counter was distracted.
He would place a large and complicated order, or intentionally use an eftpos card which he knew would decline, and when the server turned around or left to resolve the problem, Rochford would lift the cash and leave, Mr Stringer said.
On June 17 he took $300 from a tip jar at Little India restaurant in
Hardy St, Nelson. On June 29 he stole between $80 and $100 from a St John charity box at Buonissimo Gelato Cafe in Richmond Mall.
On June 30, he took $50 from a tip jar at Chokdee Thai Cuisine in Hardy St, Nelson.
On July 1, Rochford stole about $90 from a Variety children's charity box at Elizabeth Catering in Waimea Rd, Nelson.
A total of $947 in reparation was sought, which Rochford said he could repay at a rate of $30 a week from prison.
In a victim impact statement read by Judge William Hastings, a spokesperson for children's charity Variety New Zealand said Rochford had stolen from the most vulnerable people in the community. The losers in this crime were young people, who would not be able to benefit from medical, educational and recreational items purchased using donations, he read.
One of the managers of Elizabeth Catering, Julie-Anne Thorn, said her trust had been compromised, and she no longer felt comfortable leaving customers unattended by the front counter.
"Her initial impression was that you were a nice person, but it turns out you weren't," Judge Hastings told Rochford.
Mr Daniell-Smith submitted that his client's sentence should be mitigated because he had only taken a small amount of money in total, and that he had committed the offences for the primary purpose of obtaining money for buying drugs. He acknowledged that "these sort of crimes are pretty obnoxious".
"This man was a drug addict during what he did to obtain money for drugs," he said.
Mr Daniell-Smith said his client's addiction had been stabilised since starting a methadone programme in custody, and that Rochford had refused bail.
Judge Hastings sentenced him to three months in prison on each charge, to be served concurrently.
He said Rochford had a "significant history of dishonesty offending".
He was jailed for nine months in 2007 for stealing charity donation tins, and has served several jail terms for similar crimes since, prompting another judge to liken him to "pond scum".
- © Fairfax NZ News