ACT News

Terminally ill burglar sentenced to three years in prison

A terminally ill burglar has told a court of the "evil" of heroin, saying he used it as an escape from his genetic disorder, but it drove him to break into three Canberra homes.

Christopher Lee Ayres, whose cystic fibrosis has left him with a bleak prognosis, told a magistrate on Wednesday he is ready to turn his life around so he can make the most of his final years.

But Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker said neither illness nor drugs excused his criminal offending, sentencing him to three years' imprisonment for a range of offences.

Ayres broke into three homes last year, taking thousands of dollars' worth of goods from each.

He was also convicted over a stolen car, and was charged with squatting in a public housing property. 

The first of the burglaries was committed less than six months after he was released from prison on parole for previous offences.

Ayres pleaded guilty to all charges, and gave evidence before he was sentenced in the ACT Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

He said his use of heroin began as a way to deal with his cystic fibrosis.

"I used it as an escape," he said.

The condition has regularly forced him in and out of hospital for long stints, lowering his life expectancy to about 37 and deteriorating his body to a fragile state.

A hugely enlarged spleen means a minor knock could now kill him. 

He said heroin was behind his decision to break into the three houses, actions he said were not in his character.

"I was just so driven by this evil drug ... it just takes control of your body and it's all you can think about."

Ayres, a heroin user since the age of 14, told Ms Walker he was determined to rehabilitate and make the most of his final years, which he hoped to spend with his mother.

But Ms Walker said she had some reservations about his commitment to rehabilitation.

She said he had an "unenviable" criminal history, and had been kicked out of a prison-based drug and alcohol program because of a failed urine test. 

Ayres had argued that the Alexander Maconochie Centre, where he is in strict protection because of his fragility, was a riskier place for him to be than the general community.

But Ms Walker said the risk was the same in ordinary life.

She told Ayres that his history showed he did little for his own health.

"Your runs on the board, Mr Ayres, are currently limited."

Ms Walker said rehabilitation was an important consideration in sentencing, despite her reservations about his motivation.

The sentence could see Ayres paroled in May, and Ms Walker recommended he be sent to a rehabilitation facility.

She acknowledged that imprisonment in a case where someone had an already limited life expectancy was "not something to be engaged upon lightly".