An Illawarra man who settled a civil case with the NSW government regarding his degrading treatment in juvenile detention has been given a lifeline by a Wollongong judge to turn his life around.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to breaking into two homes on the same day in November 2022.
The break-ins occurred in Thirroul and Helensburgh within hours of each other, with keys missing from the home in Thirroul and the man spotted later driving the Helensburgh residents' Mercedes Benz to his parents' address in Barrack Heights.
Sentencing the man in Wollongong District Court, Judge Andrew Heasler said the man's particular history meant that a jail sentence would mean he would likely emerge worse than when he went in.
"If you brutalise people as children they react," Judge Haesler said.
In 2018, the man settled a civil claim against the NSW government for what Judge Haesler described as "unlawful" treatment at the hands of juvenile justice.
In the civil case the man alleged he was locked alone in a cell for 22 hours a day for a month, was called a "dog" and a "piece of shit" by guards.
The lawsuit alleged inhumane treatment by prison guards who were meant to oversee the then 16-year-old's condition.
The man alleged he was handcuffed when let out of his cell into an enclosed concrete area where he could not see the sky.
When the man spoke to guards of self-harming, the guards allegedly said "we don't care" and "go kill yourself".
The case was later settled and Judge Haesler said it appeared the man's claim of inhumane treatment was sustained at the civil threshold of on the balance of probabilities.
Separate to his time in custody, the man's mother was convicted in 2010 of manslaughter and while in custody the man learnt of the death of a sibling.
Judge Haesler said with this background, and evidence of the man's "difficult" time already spent in prison, further stints in custody for what were relatively minor examples of the type of offending he was charged with meant jail would neither improve his prospects, nor keep the community safe from further offending.
"The options available to the court in this matter are limited," Judge Haesler said.
However, representatives for the man had arranged for him to be admitted to an Illawarra rehab facility, with an 8pm to 7am curfew.
Judge Haesler said this option provided a way for the man to prove he can meet his promises of changing his life.
A mention date was set for November 10, for a report on the man's progress.
- Support is available for those who may be distressed. Phone Lifeline 13 11 14; Men's Referral Service 1300 776 491; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800; beyondblue 1300 224 636; 1800-RESPECT 1800 737 732.