Brett Wortman

Jailed burglar told co-offender just lucky to avoid slammer

SIX years prison for causing $230,000 worth of damage during an optometrist break-in did not seem fair to Benjamin Troy Owen.

Especially when the mate he did it with did not have to serve a day.

Owen was jailed on August 20, 2014 after he pleaded guilty in Maroochydore District Court to burglary and stealing as well as 36 other drug, driving and property offences. He was jailed for six years and was made eligible for parole on October 31, 2015.

He and other man broke into an optometrist's where they trashed the store, stole a large amount of stock and let off a fire extinguisher in the store, damaging computers and scientific equipment. The optometrist had to close the business for nearly two months to repair and restock the store.

Owen appealed the sentence to the Supreme Court because the co-offender was given a suspended sentence for the damage. His defence team also said the 21 days he spent in lock-up before the sentence had not been taken into account.

The court delivered its judgment on Friday and found rather than Owen being unfairly treated, the magistrate who sentenced his co-offender had not been given the full facts - including how much damage the pair did.

Supreme Court Justice Philip Morrison said the judge who sentenced Owen had not given a manifestly excessive sentence, but rather the co-offender had been lucky.

"Mr Owen's co-offender … was fortunate to be sentenced by a learned magistrate who was not told all the relevant facts, and specifically, not the value of the damage caused," he said.

Justice James Douglas agreed, stating the original sentence had been made without the complete set of facts and Owen's sentencing judge was correct in not relying on it.

"Where the sentence imposed on the co-offender is affected by such a mistake its utility for the exercise of the parity principle is quite limited," he said.

The court did agree the time Owen spent in custody before the sentence should be taken into account - and moved his parole eligibility date 21 days closer.


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