Sentencing a promising artist with hundreds of convictions to more prison time is "almost pointless", according to a judge who described the man's life as a "tragedy" while extending his stint behind bars.
Peter Michael Crawford, 38, was just eight days into an ACT Supreme Court drug and alcohol treatment order when he ran away from a rehabilitation facility and jointly stole more than $75,000 worth of cash and goods from the University of Canberra supermarket.
Agreed facts tendered to the court on Friday show Crawford, who pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and theft charges, did this with an unidentified co-offender in September 2020.
Crawford was identified from CCTV footage, which showed him and his comrade breaking into the business at 4.23am on the day in question and quickly leaving with nearly $4000 worth of cigarettes.
But the pair were not done, and about half an hour later they returned to the supermarket.
This time, Crawford wheeled away a $600 safe that contained $70,000 in cash as his fellow thief carried off a case of whiskey valued at $574.
Police found the safe, which had been damaged and emptied, later the same day.
Officers were unable to track down Crawford for a period of time but they eventually located him in Victoria, where he had been locked up for unrelated offences.
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He was subsequently extradited to the ACT and his treatment order was cancelled, with a sentence of full-time imprisonment imposed in its place.
On Friday, the court heard that sentence was not due to expire until February 2025.
Crawford's Aboriginal Legal Service lawyer, Jonathan Cooper, urged Justice Michael Elkaim to give the 38-year-old a sentence for the supermarket offences that was partially concurrent with the existing term. He argued an entirely cumulative penalty would be "crushing".
Mr Cooper acknowledged Crawford's release on the treatment order had been "a disaster", but he said now was not the time for the court to be giving up on a man who was "still trying" to change his ways.
The lawyer told the court his client had been painting behind bars, tendering pictures of two artworks, while he also detailed a number of other positive things Crawford had been doing recently.
Justice Elkaim described it as being very difficult to sentence a man like Crawford, noting the offender's "awful upbringing", long-standing issues with "a lot of illicit drugs", and diagnoses that included possible foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Crawford had spent a lot of his life in prison and did not have much experience in the workforce, the judge said, describing this as part of "the overall tragedy" because the offender was "not without skills".
Justice Elkaim said he thought Crawford's paintings were "very good", and expressed hope that the 38-year-old might be able to make a career out of his art in the future.
He also mused that imposing further imprisonment on Crawford "seems almost pointless" given jail had not helped him reform in the past, but ultimately there was no other appropriate punishment.
The judge accordingly imposed a sentence for the supermarket crimes that was partially concurrent with Crawford's existing one, pushing the expiry of the offender's total prison term out to September 2025.
Justice Elkaim also reset Crawford's non-parole period, which had been due to expire in February next year, so that it will not run out until October 2024.
The offender must therefore spend at least the next two-and-a-half years in custody.
As part of the sentencing, the judge recommended that the Sentence Administration Board only release Crawford on parole if a suitable regime of accommodation and rehabilitation opportunities was in place.
He also declined prosecutor Erin Priestly's application for an order that would require Crawford to pay more than $4500 in reparations, which would have covered the cost of the stolen whiskey and tobacco.
Justice Elkaim said such an order would be "pointless and possibly even detrimental to the small chance of rehabilitation that exists".
As a journalist, I've covered everything from a royal tour and a terror attack to international sport. After stints in New Zealand, the UK and the Canary Islands, I returned to Australia in 2018. These days, I cover the ACT and Queanbeyan courts.
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