Thief sentenced to prison for spate of crimes in Bendigo

A magistrate has sentenced a man who pleaded guilty to a series of thefts and other offences to imprisonment, saying community corrections orders had “failed miserably” in putting him on the straight and narrow.

Evan Bennett, 29, pleaded guilty in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday to a string of offences, including multiple theft-related charges, multiple criminal damage charges, unlawful assault, and driving offences.

Bennett’s defence lawyer Jacob Kantor submitted that his client had experienced domestic violence in childhood, suffered a number of head injuries, made attempts at suicide, suffered mental illness and occasionally experienced hallucinations, which were exacerbated by his drug use.

Mr Kantor said Bennett was able to function well when not using drugs, had two children, was no longer in the same circle of friends, and had a mother who was willing to support him.

But Magistrate Patrick Southey said Bennett’s problems arose from his ice use and multiple community corrections orders had failed.

Instead, Mr Southey sentenced Bennett to a total of 15 months’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of seven months, taking into account the 187 days already served.

The parole period is intended to keep Bennett from drug use, with Mr Southey explaining parole conditions and breach consequences are much stricter and more severe than those of community corrections orders.

The magistrate noted that Bennett had a serious history for the same offending and had already served a number of jail terms.

“You’ve got no respect for other people’s property,” Mr Southey said.

But he said Bennett was “far from a lost cause” and had a lot of things going for him.

“You just need to stay away from drugs,” he said.

Bennett was also ordered to pay a $700 fine plus costs, and has had his licence cancelled and disqualified for 12 months.

The court heard that on a June evening last year, Bennett stole a bag from a vehicle parked in Moran Street, Long Gully, before breaking into garages at the Bendigo and District RSL club, stealing items and causing damage.

He also attempted to steal a vehicle, a forklift and a motorbike, causing significant damage to all three.

When the bike owner was notified by a witness and confronted him, Bennett approached the owner with closed fists saying “Come on, do you want a go?” before attempting to punch him.

Bennett was arrested later that month in Melbourne after he was found in a car with stolen number plates, but made no comment to police except to say he owned the vehicle.

In July 2017 a stolen vehicle was used to steal petrol from a Golden Square petrol station, then the following month, Bennett and another person went to a storage facility and broke into three storage sheds, and attempted to break into the office.

Bennett and two others also smashed a vehicle into the Eaglehawk Subway, and Bennett went on to steal a uniform from the Eaglehawk CFA station.

In September, motorcycle clothing and a motorcycle were stolen from an Upper California Gully Road property, but Bennett crashed the motorcycle on Weatherall Street and was picked up by two other people.

An ambulance was later called to attend an Eaglehawk address because of a male who had suffered injuries from falling from a roof, but when Bennett presented at hospital with injuries that included a fractured arm, he told staff he sustained them after falling from a mountain bike.

The court heard police also recovered stolen property from an Ironbark address.