Convicted armed robber Matthew Leith appears for sentence
in the Dunedin District Court for three strikes against the
same local dairy. Photo by ODT.
A man who robbed the same Dunedin dairy three times may
not have waved a knife at his victims, but the presence of the
weapon undoubtedly ''inflicted terror'' on them, a judge said
Matthew Leonard Leith (37), of Dunedin, robbed the Mornington
Night'n Day Dairy last August, November and February while
armed with a knife and in disguise.
Each time he ended up with ''not inconsiderable sums of
money'' from the tills, Judge Michael Crosbie said. The three
robberies netted a total of $2973 in cash and about $360
worth of cigarettes and tobacco.
In the Dunedin District Court yesterday, Leith was sentenced
to seven years' jail (three concurrent terms), of which he
must serve at least half before he can apply for parole. On
his release, he is to pay reparation, as sought, and he has
been given a warning under the ''three strikes'' legislation.
Since pleading guilty last month, Leith had met the store
owner at a restorative justice conference. He had apologised
to her and she had accepted his apology, although that
acceptance was conditional on him not offending again, the
The woman had been keen to meet Leith and challenge his
behaviour face to face, Judge Crosbie said. And there had
been ''some forgiving graciousness'' on her part in that she
wanted him to get the help he needed to turn his life around
and make a new start.
She had encouraged him to find work and live differently.
She was obviously interested in meeting him, to find out what
led him to rob her dairy three times. She thought he was on
drugs but learned he had a good job at the time and did not
want to lose it.
But he was struggling to pay a debt so looked around for a
store to rob, then ''did what he did''. Leith had also
offered apologies to the three staff he robbed. The dairy
owner was concerned what he would have done if they had tried
to call the police. And while he said he did not intend
hurting anyone, he had acknowledged the staff would not have
''What's positive is she got to meet you face to face and
receive an apology from you, face to face,'' Judge Crosbie
He said Leith appeared to have engaged in the restorative
justice process not because he had to but because he was
Crown counsel Richard Smith and defence counsel John Westgate
agreed any minimum non-parole period should be 50% of the end
sentence, given Leith's guilty plea and his participation in
restorative justice. Mr Westgate described the defendant as
having some insight and concern for his victims.
The important thing was for him to stop returning to the
cycle of reoffending once he was released.
Judge Crosbie said the four victim impact reports were ''all
consistent'' and told Leith there was no doubt he had
''inflicted some terror on these people''.
''What you did, Mr Leith, was extreme. That's why it carries
a maximum sentence of 14 years' imprisonment,'' the judge
The penalty imposed had to be severe to deter and denounce
violent behaviour by a person armed with a weapon against
people in a vulnerable situation.
But, in the particular circumstances, a term of seven years'
jail was appropriate, as was a minimum non-parole term of 50%
of the sentence.