Habitual criminal's chance to be honest
A habitual criminal and addict who repeatedly broke into a south Canberra club, smashing poker machines and stealing thousands of dollars, is at a court-ordered crossroads.
Michael John Robertson has just less than a year to convince a judge he can stay clean and out of trouble, or he faces a nine-year sentence.
If the 41-year-old keeps on the straight and narrow he could get just seven years, wholly or partly served in weekend jail or as a suspended sentence.
Acting Chief Justice Richard Refshauge deferred sentence in the ACT Supreme Court yesterday, saying he believed the serial offender had found himself at a crossroads.
Robertson, who has spent 400 days locked up on remand, will be bailed to attend a rehabilitation centre.
The final sentence, to be handed down next October, will depend on whether he can stick with the program.
Justice Refshauge said he had struggled with the decision, but believed Robertson had finally reached a point in his life when he was ready to reform.
''I'm giving you this opportunity. Many people would say that I'm silly to do that, but in my view we should strike while the iron is hot.''
Robertson and two co-offenders burgled the Weston Club three times in three months between November 2010 and February last year in what the judge referred to as a ''major enterprise''.
Each time they broke in through the same window, and each time they covered their faces with masks.
They forced their way into poker machines, stealing $36,000 and damaging property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
On the third occasion a cleaner disturbed them.
Robertson also admitted burgling a Mitchell Electronics retailer.
And he admitted cutting his way into parking meters at Westfield Belconnen.
Robertson pleaded guilty to four aggravated burglaries, four thefts, four property damage charges and one attempted theft.
The court heard he had a ''long and entrenched drug habit'', turning to heroin at 14, and had 76 convictions in 22 court appearances. But Robertson, entering the witness box at a sentencing proceeding, described the past 20 years as a ''waste''.
He spoke of life-changing events in April last year - his daughter's pregnancy and the death of his grandmother - and how they spurred him to switch from heroin to oxycontin and get a job for the first time in his adult life.
He also expressed a desire to be a better father to his children.
Justice Refshauge said Robertson's attitude adjustment, although not a ''Damascene conversion'' away from crime, was significant.
''You are, I hope, a good candidate to show that you are at the end of the line for criminal activity,'' Justice Refshauge said.
Robertson will be released from the Alexander Maconochie Centre on bail early next week.