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Primo Thompson (19) appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday where he was sentenced to 12 months’ intensive supervision and three months’ community detention, a sentence that will be served just a kilometre from where the swathe of break-ins took place.
He pleaded guilty to 13 burglaries and three counts of theft.
Judge Peter Rollo said the continual visits to the vulnerable members of the gated community were a particularly aggravating factor.
"You’ll know these are people who have worked, normally, all their lives, then purchased a property there to see out their retirement," he said.
"The expectation is they’ll enjoy life and have a sense of security. You and your mates who burgled their homes ... have ruined their sense of enjoyment of life, I’m sure."
When Thompson was first approached by police he admitted the majority of the burglaries but blamed associates for others, claiming he had only been present as a lookout.
His first transgression came in March when he climbed into a North Dunedin student flat through an open window while the three residents slept.
Thompson stole a wallet, keys, a backpack containing university work and two bottles of home-brew.
Counsel David McCaskill said his client was intoxicated at the time.
The bulk of the offences, the lawyer said, were the result of Thompson being "unable to cope with the problems and stresses in his life" following the suicide of a close friend in May.
Throughout June, he burgled nine properties at the retirement village, some of which he hit twice.
"The defendant stole an array of items from the addresses including wallets, cash, bank cards, house keys, a security camera and alcohol," a police summary said.
Thompson met two of his victims for restorative justice conferences and was described as apologetic and "very emotional".
In total, he owed those he ripped off more than $3500.
"You should see it as a point of mana you should pay back those people," Judge Rollo said.
A cultural report noted Thompson lacked family support during his formative years and had started using alcohol and cannabis early in life.
Like his father and grandfather he had become disassociated from his Maori culture but he was now keen to change that, Mr McCaskill said.
As part of his intensive-supervision sentence, the judge ordered Thompson undertake a tikanga programme, as well as alcohol and drug counselling.