MAX SENTENCE: The man received the most years in prison that a magistrate is able to hand down.
MAX SENTENCE: The man received the most years in prison that a magistrate is able to hand down. Matt Taylor

Man stole Range Rover, Harley Davidson in crime spree

A MAN has been handed a three-year prison sentence for his role in a crime spree that included the theft of a Range Rover, a Harley-Davidson and $US600 in cash.

But it was the role played by drug addiction in the man's turn to crime that led to a spirited discussion between the magistrate and prosecutor in Gladstone Magistrates Court yesterday about the appropriate sentence.

Magistrate Dennis Kinsella said the man's use of ice put the offending in the context of addiction, making it less serious than if it had been motivated purely by material greed.

But prosecutor Joel Sleep said, if anything, the man's ice usage should be considered an aggravating factor, given the need to deter use of the drug in the community.

Mervyn Ronald Cullen, 33, appeared in court via video link from Capricornia Correctional Centre, having spent the past 109 days in custody awaiting his sentence.

He pleaded guilty to 16 charges, including stealing a vehicle, six counts of burglary, driving under the influence, failing to stop for police and possessing a knife in public.

The court was told Cullen entered a home on the Gold Coast last year and stole the keys to a Range Rover, which was later found abandoned.

 

Gladstone Court House. Courthouse.
AGGRAVATE OR MITIGATE: The role drugs played in the man's sentencing sparked debate in court. Matt Taylor

He and a co-offender also broke into several vehicles that month, stealing coins and hundreds of dollars in Australian and foreign currency.

On May 11 this year, after moving to Gladstone, Cullen was involved in the theft of a Harley-Davidson and a laptop.

He was identified by CCTV footage at the time, and three days later was intercepted by police in an unmarked car.

He was found to have 0.5g of meth in his possession, along with a 12-gauge shotgun shell, a 45cm knife and a flick knife.

Defence lawyer Cassandra Ditchfield said her client was using ice heavily at the time of the offences.

She said while his addiction was not an excuse, it was an explanation for his behaviour.

But police prosecutor Joel Sleep argued Cullen's addiction would more appropriately be considered an aggravating factor, given the prevalence of the drug in the community.

"If you've got someone who's on ice, and someone who's not on ice... how do they possibly get the same sentence?" Mr Sleep said.

But Mr Kinsella disagreed, noting the distinction between offences committed purely to obtain property and those which arose "primarily from weakness of character" such as addiction.

He declined to commit the case to a higher court, instead sentencing Cullen to three years in prison, the highest possible penalty that can be imposed by a magistrate.

He also disqualified Cullen from driving for two years.

A parole release date was set for May 14 next year.