A man who went on a drug-induced crime spree south of Wollongong late last year has been sentenced to a minimum two years’ jail.
Brian Oliver admitted to his involvement in a string of crimes between September and December, including burglaries at premises in Dapto and Kembla Grange where he stole laptop computers, credit cards, tools and jewellery.
However, his most serious offence occurred on December 2, costing two aspiring business owners thousands of dollars and Oliver his freedom.
In the early hours of the morning, Oliver and another man used a screwdriver to jemmy their way into a Dapto building that was home to the recently opened Ace of Steaks restaurant.
Once inside the main building, the pair gained entry through the roof cavity, before stealing the cash register and a tip jar.
A short time after the duo exited, Oliver’s companion ‘‘became paranoid’’ he’d left fingerprints and decided the place needed to be torched.
While Oliver acted as a lookout, the co-accused allegedly doused the inside of the store in diesel and attempted to set it alight.
But it failed to ignite, prompting the man to source petrol, which he mixed with the diesel before setting it alight, the court was told. The ensuing fire caused significant damage to the building’s interior and structure.
Oliver previously told the court that breaking into the restaurant had been more opportunistic than pre-planned.
However, he said it was never his intention to be involved in setting the restaurant on fire.
He blamed his co-accused for the crime, saying he tried to convince him not to do it.
The court heard Oliver had been a casual ice user in the months before his crime spree, however, began to use it daily while on holidays for 10 weeks from his job as an apprentice diesel mechanic.
His continued ice use when he returned to work cost him his job and led to his downward spiral.
Wollongong District Court judge Paul Conlon accepted that Oliver had a significant addiction to ice at the time of the offences.
He also accepted that Oliver was remorseful for his actions, and that he had good prospects of rehabilitation provided he could maintain a drug-free life.
Judge Conlon sentenced Oliver to three years and six months in prison, with a non-parole period of two years. With time already served, he will be eligible for release on January 8, 2015.