Christmas burglar jailed

A serial thief who rifled through a family's Christmas presents to feed his gambling and drug addiction has been sentenced to jail.

Unanderra man Dean Hartgrove was on parole and completing three community service orders for a string of break-ins when he stole from several more properties, making off with a jar of change, iPods and a wristwatch.

Sentencing the 24-year-old to a minimum 12 months' jail yesterday, Magistrate Michael Stoddart said Hartgrove's behaviour was appalling.

"These are very serious offences," he told Wollongong Local Court.

"The community expects when people are subject to orders that they do the right thing and stay out of trouble, not break into people's homes and steal property.

"Your behaviour in going through people's Christmas presents is just appalling - there is no option for you except jail."

Hartgrove had been making regular trips to Sydney's The Star casino and bingeing on poker machines when he broke into a Sydney home on December 6 last year.

After removing a window with a screwdriver, he went through the homeowner's Christmas presents, along with several cupboards and drawers, and stole items worth nearly $700.

Just weeks earlier, he had broken into a Cordeaux Heights home, using a brick to smash a window.

He raided the home, removing a game console, an iPod and $250 cash.

Days later, Hartgrove sold the game console for $120 at Wollongong pawnbroker Cash Express.

He was arrested on December 12.

The court heard yesterday that Hartgrove, who pleaded guilty to the theft, had just two weeks left on parole when he was caught.

Defence solicitor Angela Melouney cited Hartgrove's gambling problem and drug issues. She argued that there had been a gap in Hartgrove's record but conceded that jail was the only sentencing option.

Hartgrove will be eligible for release next year.