Practical joke lands guard in court

Revenge doesn't pay, a prison guard discovered yesterday, after a practical joke backfired and landed him before a magistrate.

Michael James Fletcher, a "four-wheel-drive enthusiast and practical joker", was out for a little payback on a mate when he pinched a locking hub from a four-wheel-drive at Oak Flats.

But the vehicle he targeted wasn't his mate's - it belonged to a police officer.

"I'm sure the irony hasn't been lost on you or anyone else," Magistrate Ian Guy said. "And all for $200. You are acutely embarrassed, I'm sure."

Fletcher, 35, of Albion Park Rail, could not find friends to corroborate his story, so he changed his plea to guilty when he appeared in Wollongong Local Court yesterday on a larceny charge.

Fletcher was upfront with officers about the circumstances of his "foolish" offence when he was arrested on January 4 at a car park opposite Oak Flats Police Station, his lawyer James Howell said.

Police officers reported seeing someone remove a part from a vehicle around 11am that day. When questioned, Fletcher told officers: "I thought it was my mate's car."

Mr Howell said Fletcher admitted what he had done, told police where the missing part was, "and made no bones about it".

Fletcher initially pleaded not guilty because of the circumstances of the "strange offence", but he had "difficulty finding these people to corroborate his version of events".

An award-winning corrective services officer at Long Bay Correctional Complex, Fletcher was a hard-working man of good character, the court heard.

And he knew pinching the part was "a silly thing to do".

"The joke is rather on him now," Mr Howell said.

The magistrate agreed, labelling it a "perverted attempt to try to recover something".

But the fact that Fletcher had stolen from a police officer did not mean the offence deserved a stiffer sentence, Mr Guy said.

He took into account Fletcher's impressive career as a corrective services officer and the fact he had no criminal history when placing him on an 18-month good behaviour bond.

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