Conman's sentence pared

A South Otago man who gambled away his friend's $34,000 life savings has had two months shaved off his jail term.

Peter Graham Brooks (66) has been behind bars since December, when he handed himself in to police after 18 months on the run.

Having previously denied the allegations, he pleaded guilty to two counts of using a document and one of theft in a special relationship, almost three years since his first appearance in court on the charges.

Judge Michael Turner, in the Dunedin District Court, sentenced him to three years one month imprisonment in February, refusing any credit for remorse.

The judge also refused any sentence discount for the defendant's guilty plea, primarily because it came so late.

Brooks met the victim in late 2011 at a Kaitangata motor camp. The victim was unwell and needed help with everyday tasks, including grocery shopping, and the defendant gained his trust by lending a hand.

The following year, the man's sister died and he was at a particularly low ebb, the court heard.

He trusted Brooks with his bank card and pin number.

Between mid-August and mid-October 2012, Brooks spent $34,503 in 76 unauthorised transactions.

He said he gambled the cash away.

Unaware of the theft, the victim also gave Brooks his caravan to sell, with a $10,000 price tag.

Instead, the defendant took it to a dealer saying he was ``desperate'' to sell, and pocketed the $5800 he was offered.

It was only in December 2012 when the victim's cheque for the camp-ground accommodation bounced that he discovered he had been swindled.

While Justice Rachel Dunningham, in a High Court hearing last month, did not consider Judge Turner's starting point for the sentence too high, she took issue with another aspect of his reasoning.

``Even very late guilty pleas, so long as delivered before the trial is under way, will deliver some benefits, both for the administration of justice and for the victims who would otherwise have to participate in the trial process,'' she said.

``I still consider it appropriate to recognise that the appellant did, in the end, voluntarily present himself to police and enter a guilty plea. The plea saved the cost of a four-to-five-day trial, which would not have taken place for several months after his pleas were entered.''

Justice Dunningham ruled Brooks' guilty plea was worth a 5% credit from his sentence.

He will now serve two years 11 months behind bars.

The order to repay the victim $15,000 on release from prison remained in place.