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Jail For `Despicable' Charity Box Thieves

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Christchurch, Oct 15 NZPA - Two Christchurch men were today jailed for nine months for donation box thefts that the judge called "low" and "despicable".

Stephen Charles Goddard and Robert Joseph Cummings worked together to raid charity collection boxes from retail and liquor outlets around Christchurch in July and early August.

Some of the boxes -- the ones for the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind -- were in the shape of 1m tall guide dogs.

Goddard, 57, of Upper Riccarton, and Cummings, 40, of Phillipstown, pleaded guilty to all the charges.

Cummings also admitted charges of shoplifting and receiving, and Goddard admitted a breach of supervision.

Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen Erber sent them to prison and ordered both of them to pay $900 reparations.

Both men have written letters of apology to the charities they stole from.

Cummings' defence counsel Richard Peters said his client's remorse was well documented.

Home detention was not available, and he urged the prison term be kept short so that Cummings could begin payment of the reparations.

Goddard's defence counsel Michael Knowles said Goddard was continuing his psychology studies. He suffered from several difficulties himself and had drug problems.

He said Goddard felt "small" over the offending, especially as he had himself worked to raise money for a charity in the 1990s.

Judge Erber said: "It doesn't require me to say how low these sorts of thefts are.

"These organisations exist for helping disabled people or people in need, and you stole from them. These thefts are despicable and you know it."

He noted Cummings had a head injury from a motorcycle accident and committed offences impulsively. He had 10 previous convictions for dishonesty.

"You say you were ashamed of yourself and felt terrible about it (the stealing), but that didn't stop you continuing to do these offences."

The judge said Goddard's list of previous offences was even longer and he owed $7000 in fines.

"You appear motivated to address your drug problem, which is at the heart of all this."

As part of his prison release conditions, Goddard will have to do a 12-step programme with Narcotics Anonymous and be assessed and treated for alcohol and drug use.

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