© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Man who burgled to pay for his meth habit jailed

Jasmine Ng

A Christchurch man stole up to $143,000 worth of goods to pay for his $600-a-day meth habit.

Barry Lee Stewart, 31, was sentenced to four years and six months imprisonment after pleading guilty to a three-month crime spree across Christchurch and North Canterbury.

From March to June this year, Stewart stole throughout Christchurch's northern suburbs of Belfast and Redwood, and North Canterbury towns of Kaiapoi and Waikuku.

His thefts launched a police investigation called Operation Belfast in response to an increase in house burglaries and tradesmen’s vehicles being broken into.

Expensive tradesmen's tools make up most of the gear Stewart stole. He was found trying to sell some of the stolen goods on Facebook. 

He pleaded guilty to 38 charges including 13 thefts, 10 burglaries, receiving stolen property, unlawful possession of a firearm, failing to stop for police, reckless driving, two charges of unlawful possession of a knife in public, possession of a pipe for smoking methamphetamine, possession of tools for taking a car, breach of community work, and three breaches of his bail.

Stewart's offending happened while he was on bail for failing to pay $9500 in unpaid fines. He had been sentenced to 160 hours of community work but only completed 24 of them.

Drug rehabilitation had been tried on Stewart but he discharged himself a day after he was admitted into Odyssey House. 

Some of the stolen firearms have still not been recovered and Christchurch District Court Judge Tom Gilbert said they were "now part of the criminal underworld".

Victim impact statements told Judge Gilbert that their homes were completely wrecked after the burglaries.

Judge Gilbert told Stewart: "You seem to have consciously made a decision to make as much mess as you could in some of these places. Only some householders had insurance, and they were put in extreme financial distress.”

One household Stewart burgled was found "completely rummaged through" with up to $40,000 worth of goods taken, including items such as televisions, jewellery, and rugs.

Judge Gilbert said "reparation wasn't realistic" for Stewart.