Judge scraps $13,000 crime-spree bill handed to man with limited capacity to pay

A Sunshine Coast judge has set aside a $13,226 restitution order imposed by a magistrate on man who had little or no means “to pay compensation for his crimes”.

Gregory Robert Owens, 35, was sentenced to 488 days (one year, two months and three weeks) in jail when he pleaded guilty in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court on 31 May 31 to six offences including a burglary and theft of an estimated $13,000 worth of jewellery and electrical goods.

The court was told Owens, who committed the offences between 18 November and 2 December 2019, was apprehended by police several weeks later (on 20 December) and was remanded in custody until sentence as a result of string of previous convictions and a very “long, serious and relevant” criminal history.

Owen’s streak of offending started on 18 November 18 2019, when “he snuck into a house at Parrearra”, 10km south of Maroochydore, stole a set of keys (burglary and stealing) and stole a Toyota car (unlawful use of a motor vehicle) from the garage and later stole fuel from three service stations – known as “petrol drive-offs” — to the value of $85.10, $101.20 and $80.10 (three counts of stealing).

He also broke into a house in Kenilworth, 65km west of Maroochydore, on 19 November 2019 and stole jewellery and electrical goods (burglary and stealing) that resulted in a payout of $13,000 to the properties’ owners by their insurers.

As part of his sentence, the presiding magistrate ordered Owen pay restitution for the stolen property and gave him 28 days within which to pay a total of $13,266.40.

Owens subsequently appealed the “severity of the sentences imposed by the magistrate” under section 222 of the Justices Act 1886 (Qld) – saying the magistrate “erred in ordering restitution in the amounts levied”.

Maroochydore District Court Judge Glenn Cash, in a decision on Friday 16 agreed with Owen’s submission, which were backed in arguments in support by the prosecution, on behalf of the Queensland Commissioner of Police (CoP).

“(The CoP) conceded that the magistrates erred in ordering ‘restitution’ in the amounts levied,” Judge Cash said.

“(The CoP) said that the magistrate erred by having insufficient regard to the capacity of (Owen) to pay compensation for his crimes and to the potential consequences of non-payment.

“By this concession, the (CoP) accepts the decision of the magistrate was the result of ‘some legal, factual or discretionary error’.

“It was common ground at the appeal hearing that it was appropriate to set aside the payment (restitution) orders.”

However, Judge Cash allowed the remainder of the magistrate’s orders, including sentences of two years’ probation with special conditions and the declaration of 488 days Owen had spent in pre-sentence custody as jail time already served.

Read the full decision.

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