A County Court judge says the theft of firearms from rural properties is a crime seen too often in country areas.
Judge John Smallwood's comments came during Wednesday's plea hearing for James Vincent Hughes, 39, and Cameron Donald Hutchinson, 34.
Hughes and Hutchinson each pleaded guilty in the County Court in Bendigo to charges of burglary, theft of a firearm, theft, being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, committing an indictable offence on bail, and dealing with property suspected of being the proceeds of crime.
The two victims of the burglary left their Kyabram property for a holiday on January 4 this year.
Sometime between 7am that day and the afternoon of January 6, Hughes and Hutchinson drove to the property, up the 200-metre driveway and, on realising no one was home, looked around.
They stole an anvil and left, deciding to return when it was dark.
When they returned they broke into a shed and ransacked it.
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They stole a safe containing five firearms and $19,700 in cash, as well as numerous other items that included fishing rods, an outboard motor, a generator, chainsaws, a socket set, a spanner set and others.
Together the stolen items, including the firearms and cash, were worth an estimated $37,000.
Hutchinson and Hughes took the safe to a Lancaster home, where it was forced open and the cash inside divided up.
The safe was reportedly thrown into a river.
Both men were arrested later that month, police having found stolen goods in searches at their homes.
Hutchinson and Hughes admitted to the offending in their interviews.
Hughes told police most of the cash was spent on the pokies.
Some of the stolen items have been found, but the cash has not been recovered and the firearms are still missing.
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In a victim impact statement to the court, the owners of the property said they had saved the money for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, which they'd had to cancel after the money was stolen.
Being pensioners, they said, they would never be able to save that amount again.
They also spoke of their worries following the burglary that they would be targeted again.
Crown prosecutor Anne Hassan submitted the offending warranted a term of imprisonment with a non-parole period, given both men were on bail at the time, Hughes was on a community corrections order, Hutchinson had breached a suspended sentence in the past, and their actions had led to there being five firearms unaccounted for in the community.
But Hughes' and Hutchinson's barristers, Eleanor Millar and Katherine Rolfe respectively, said a combination of imprisonment and a community corrections order was in range.
Ms Millar told the court her client had tried to help police find the firearms and the burglary was not of the most serious nature.
She said Hughes also understood the position he had put the victims in and had expressed remorse.
Hughes had good prospects of rehabilitation, Ms Millar said, if he remained abstinent from drugs.
Ms Rolfe said her client took full responsibility for his offending, and had only one prior conviction for a dishonest offence.
She said Hutchinson had qualifications and maintained steady employment until a workplace accident, and hoped to return to work when released.
But Judge Smallwood said community corrections orders in combination with imprisonment were "not a successful disposition".
He said it was too common in country areas that farmers had firearms stolen, because people knew they were there.
Sentencing was adjourned to next week.
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