HOLIDAY homes, particularly those on Phillip Island, are regularly a target for drug addicts, alcoholics, criminal youth and scumbags of all types who see them as an easy touch for food, alcohol, accommodation and stolen goods.
But those thinking of taking advantage when houses are apparently unoccupied might need to think again after the penalties handed down in the Wonthaggi Magistrates’ Court last week.
A man who trashed a holiday house at Surf Beach on Phillip Island in August last year, in the company of two others, and burgled two nearby homes, received an immediate jail sentence of three months and won’t be home for Christmas.
He was also ordered to make restitution for damage done in the order of $37,394.
And he will be placed on a 12-month community corrections order when he gets out, thankfully based in Ballarat – not here, one of the conditions of the order being that he is banned from entering licenced premises for six months.
The court heard that Scott Blake, 21 of Cranbourne North, and two co-accused, entered an unoccupied but securely locked house in Surf Beach between August 7 and August 21 last year after his associate had smashed a rear window.
The trio stayed for a number of days, graffitiing walls with threatening and obscene messages, kicking holes in plaster, smearing chilli sauce and soy sauce over the walls and damaging them with knives.
They also left the heaters running full bore and filled the spa bath with cream and food, blocking its system and generally trashing the house throughout.
In all, it was estimated that Blake participated in causing up to $50,000 worth of damage to that home and others.
They also removed an LCD TV, a Wii games console and games, computer, DVD, food, alcohol and small electrical items, among other things.
The offenders also broke into the house next door and another nearby, again causing damage and stealing goods, although in Blake’s case, he allegedly left fingerprint evidence on a wall-mounted, flat-screen TV that they couldn’t remove.
According to police, they took some of the stolen goods to Cash Converters in Cranbourne where they received a $140 cash payment for an LCD TV and several other items.
Magistrate Steven Raleigh didn’t try to hide his disgust at the behaviour of Blake and his colleagues.
“You’re looking at an immediate jail term,” he said.
“Anyone who breaks into someone’s home and destroys it like that has got to know it’s completely unacceptable.”
Initially the man denied involvement in some of the worst excesses of damage, saying through his lawyer, that he came on to the scene later but he did admit to the thefts.
In the end though, he agreed that he was complicit in the damage also.
Having failed to appear in court on an unrelated matter last month, police opposed bail when the man said he wanted to contest the string of burglary, criminal damage and theft charges but it all came unstuck when police opposed bail and brought the additional charges to light.
While on bail, facing the burglary and criminal damage charges, he was picked up by police in July this year after fish-tailing his car away from a set of lights in South Oakleigh.
Blake had his car impounded on that occasion.
After altering his “not guilty” plea to “guilty” on all but four of the charges, his lawyer agreed the matter was very serious and that jail “would be a starting point”.
He said his client was facing difficult personal circumstances at the time of the offending with his father battling prostate cancer and his mother a heart condition but it was still no excuse.
He admitted that drugs and alcohol were implicated in the episode of offending describing it as “a disgraceful way to treat someone else’s property”.
Magistrate Raleigh said the circumstances were all too frequent.
“Unfortunately this sort of thing happens all too frequently in the area,” Mr Raleigh said.
“Just imagine what it must be like for the owners of these houses to come in finding they’ve been broken into and their property damaged.
“I couldn’t tell you what the motives are; jealousy, drugs and alcohol; whatever it is, it’s unacceptable,” he said.
The lawyer agreed.
“Drugs and alcohol were involved in this case,” he said, saying that the owners would no doubt be scared, but also very angry about what had taken place.
“He’s disgusted with himself and on hearing it read out again, even more so.”
Mr Raleigh handed down a 90 day jail sentence, to be followed up by a 12-month Community Corrections Order with conditions including drug, alcohol, mental health and offending programs.
There’s also the six-month ban from licenced premises.
Blake was ordered to pay $34,414 for the criminal damage and stolen property.
He was fined $500 on the traffic offences.
One of the other offenders in the case, the man who allegedly broke into the first house in Surf Beach, received an even harsher penalty some weeks ago after several incidents of wrongdoing were rolled up together and the man’s lengthy record was taken into account.
Ross Langlois of Raneye Systems in Wonthaggi, the president of the Wonthaggi Business Association said that while the first line of defence was to lock your house securely, there were a lot of other things that could be done to secure your home against these sorts of invasions.
“You can’t beat alarms and cameras and the alarms they have today actually have cameras in them that send you photos of the culprits via the Cloud,” Mr Langlois said.
“They’ve already been instrumental in catching offenders all around Australia and they also act as a great deterrent.”
In recent months, there have been a number of cases go through the Wonthaggi Magistrates’ Court involving break-ins and thefts from holiday homes, mostly by youth looking for alcohol and a place to sleep.
In another case, a local youth was found guilty of spraying tags and graffiti inside the old Warley Hospital in Cowes.