By ERWIN CHLANDA
The failure of a magistrate to order restitution following a burglary at the Road Transport Hall of Fame will spark a protest by her and supporters outside the Alice Springs courthouse, says the hall’s CEO, Liz Martin.
She is also a town councillor.
The heist netted three burglars more than $23,000 in cash. Of that $8500 was given to a man who later spent it on a car.
The man, Michael Foster, appeared before Magistrate David Bamber on April 15 charged with receiving the amount and with several other offences.
Ms Martin said: “I am extremely disappointed in Magistrate Bamber’s failure to address restitution.
“I really don’t care what sort of hard life or drug addiction Foster has. It all amounts to making a choice of where you go in life.
“And it’s all about accountability, responsibility and righting your wrongs, and my right to have restorative justice and I am not going to give up on seeking financial restitution.
“My right, under natural justice, to make comment on sentencing was denied me by the court.
“It is my endeavour to be given that right. Otherwise, it makes a farce of the Victim Impact Statement and what it is meant to achieve.
“The criminal behaviour has had a major impact, not on only on the financial well-being of our museum but in the morale of our volunteer workforce particularly in causing fear of violence,” says Ms Martin.
Police prosecutor Lindsay Westphal told the court: “The victim is seeking restitution for the money stolen, $23,288.
“The National Road Transport Hall of Fame is a community based organisation, which gives a lot back to the community of Alice Springs. Those are the facts of the matter.”
Mr Bamber did not make an order for restitution and made no reference to Mr Westphal’s application.
Foster pleaded guilty to the charge of receiving and was sentenced to six months in prison.
Mr Bamber said Foster had an “appalling record in relation to property offences.
“He pleaded to receiving a large sum of money … to use it to get a vehicle. The way he did [this] is very serious offending. He has been sentenced to significant terms for a similar offence, and other related type of offending.
“A term of imprisonment for some months at least is called for. I will take into account that he has pleaded [guilty] at the very first opportunity and he has been cooperative with police.”
The defence counsel told the court Foster has “a significant problem with drugs.
“This offending is [against] the background of his drug addiction” and he is “vulnerable, saw an opportunity and took it. He decided to own up to his involvement.
“He wants to take full responsibility. He is on a roundabout of being in and out of jail constantly.
“He wants to go to DASA, when he has the opportunity, to get off drugs” and wants to engage “in support and counselling.”
The defence counsel said Foster was “time and time again before the court”.
His judgment in dealing with people is impaired. He is a young person.
He has a son he has not seen for some time, he lives in Darwin, “to his regret. He wants to be a good father one day.”
Forster is the product of a broken home: “There was a lot of domestic violence for a long time,” said the defence counsel.
“Nothing further, your Honour,” said the prosecutor.
He had earlier told the court that on March 27, co-offenders William Tilmuoth, Tylor Miller and Jamael Turner, entered the Hall of Fame, with a “common intention to unlawfully enter to steal property.”
They cut a hole in the perimeter fence, entered the main shed, turned off the power to the building, and forced open the door to the administration office.
They tipped the contents of drawers on the floor.
They found keys to two safes, and removed $15,228 from one and $8,000 from the other, $23,228 in total.
Foster was later shown the money by the co-offenders near Jay Creek: “They all drove to Alice Springs with the intent to buy a vehicle,” the court was told.
Foster made contact with “the owner of a sedan in Elder Street,” and offered him $8500 which the co-offender Turner had given to him.
Foster paid for the vehicle and “another family member signed the appropriate paper work,” said Mr Westphal.
On April 12 police were searching for Foster at 1872 Mulla Mulla Road. Foster ran from the police but was arrested in an adjoining property.
Foster told police that the co-offenders had been “bragging about the money”.
When police asked why he took the money knowing it had been stolen, Foster said “because I am broke. I was doing it for Jamael,” the court was told.
Ms Martin says she had received legal advice that the car could not be confiscated and given to the Hall because it had not been stolen from the Hall.
However, she says the Magistrate should have ordered Foster to make restitution – a message she intends to make the subject of a public demonstration.
PHOTOS: Some of the damage cause to the offices of the National Road Transport Hall of Fame, one of Alice Springs’ icons.
By ERWIN CHLANDA