THE south-west is a happy hunting ground for stolen firearms with guns ending up in the hands of career criminals, a court has heard.
A police officer made the comments in Warrnambool Magistrates Court following a guilty plea from a teenager who stole 13 guns during a crime spree last year.
The 18-year-old offender, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty in the Children’s Court this week to theft and burglary charges. One burglary at a private home in Portland netted a safe containing 13 guns and $12,500 in cash.
The youth was 17 at the time of the offences and when later interviewed by police said he gave the guns away and didn’t want anything to do with them.
The police prosecutor said professional crooks utilised smaller-time criminals to easily get their hands on guns.
The magistrate said offences coming before the Children’s Court didn’t get much more serious.
He said the teenager had engaged in high-value thefts involving firearms which had never been recovered.
He said those guns were now in the hands of people who would commit the most serious crimes in Victoria.
The court also heard that in March last year the teenager used a sledgehammer to break into the James Dean Pharmacy in Hamilton.
He then took the safe from the shop and stole $10,900 in cash, along with methadone and other medication.
The teenager then gave the cash to people he owed for drug debts and sold the medicine for $5000.
He also pleaded guilty in Warrnambool Magistrates Court to a burglary at the Heywood Post Office in June last year. The defendant also broke into the Bridgewater cafe in September last year.
In relation to other charges, the court heard that in July last year the teenager was at home with his parents when an argument started, during which he punched his mother, grabbed her around the throat and tried to choke her.
His defence counsel told the court that during these burglaries his client was clearly out of control but something had changed in the last six months.
He said there were no other matters pending and he had not been questioned for any other matters.
The lawyer said the teenager had made peace with his family, who were supporting him in court, and he had been taken under the wing of his older sister.
He said the teenager had made admissions to police and without his help the matters might not have gone further.
On the Children’s Court matters the teen was convicted and sentenced to youth detention for six months.
The magistrate said that in terms of the assault on his mother, his family may have forgiven him but it remained a matter of community concern.
On the adult matters he was sentenced to 10 months’ jail, wholly suspended for 18 months.