Thief blames drinking for crimes

A TIN Can Bay man who caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to boats that he stole, including a houseboat valued at $200,000, was released on parole yesterday after serving 24 days in pre-sentence custody.

Shaun Bruce Alec Walker, 20, pleaded guilty in Gympie Magistrates Court to 11 charges that arose from a two-month “crime spree” in which he took various vessels from their moorings without permission and left them where they either ran out of petrol or ran aground.

The court heard Walker’s alcohol problem combined with an interest in boats led him to take a privately owned 5.3 metre Sharkcat with 115 horsepower outboard motors from the Tin Can Bay Marina on February 26. He took the boat for a ride until it ran out of petrol near Teebar Creek where he anchored it and hitched a lift back to the mainland with a boatie. When the vessel was recovered, damage repairs amounted to $2248.57.

Then on March 4, Walker took a 4.1 metre hire boat with a 24 horsepower motor owned by Tin Can Bay Houseboats. Walker said he drove it to Crab Creek and Carlo Point during the night and in the morning left it in the shallows near the skate park at Tin Can Bay. Still at large for the first two offences, Walker stole another hire boat from the marina and used it to get to a 13-metre rental houseboat owned by Luxury Afloat on March 21.

Walker abandoned the polycraft boat and boarded the houseboat, managing to drive it about 200 metres up Snapper Creek before running it aground on a sandbank in.

During this short trip, Walker ran into a green navigation marker and bent it, scratching the side of the houseboat and damaging a window and flyscreen.

Tin Can Bay Coast Guard alerted authorities and the owner of the houseboat after Walker radioed them for help.

Coast Guard told police a drunk male on board the houseboat had wanted the Coast Guard to tow him off the bank.

For the next two hours while waiting for police to arrive, the houseboat’s owner watched as Walker revved the motors, spitting water and sand into the air to try and refloat the houseboat.

Police rowed out to the houseboat and arrested an intoxicated Walker and took him back to Tin Can Bay Police Station where he was interviewed and admitted stealing all of the vessels.

He was breathalysed and recorded an illegal blood alcohol concentration of .177 per cent.

Police prosecutor Senior Constable Lisa Manns said restitution of $3354.30 was sought for repairs to the damaged navigation marker and $5618.09 for repairs to the hull and fittings of the boat.

She said each charge of unlawful use of a vessel was accompanied by a trespassing charge associated with him gaining entry to the marina.

Snr Const Manns asked for Walker to be sentenced to one month in prison for each of the trespass offences and three months jail each for the unlawful use.

She suggested that time served should be taken into account and the remaining jail time suspended for two years.

For driving the vessel while under the influence of alcohol she suggested that Walker be placed on probation for 15 months.

Defence lawyer Alan Korobacz said his client was on a disability pension and had faced many challenges in his life which he had overcome. He said Walker couldn’t read or write but had obtained a marine licence as well as his car and motorbike licenses.

“Although he’s had these challenges he’s gone farther than most,” Mr Korobacz told the court and added that Walker’s references suggested he was reliable and honest and didn’t miss a day of work when he was employed.

He said one of the main factors that got Walker into trouble was that he would binge drink to such excess that he would lose clear judgement.

“It seems when he goes out and drinks with friends he ends up walking about and loses all sense of what he’s doing,” Mr Korobacz said.

“Time in prison has had an effect on him (and it appears) to have changed his attitude. Most importantly, he recognises that he has a drinking problem. When he committed these offences he was not in a proper frame of mind.”

Magistrate Maxine Baldwin accepted that alcohol had fuelled the “series of stupid mistakes”. “You don’t need me to tell you how stupid you’ve been.”

Walker, of Marlin Way, Tin Can Bay, was sentenced to a number of short prison terms with time served taken into account. He was released on parole immediately with the time remaining suspended for 12 months, placed on probation for 12 months, disqualified from driving for three months and ordered to pay $11,220.96.

Gympie Times

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