Men charged over theft of Kyabram couples savings

By Kyabram Free Press

JAMES Vincent Hughes, 39, and Cameron Donald Hutchinson, 34, 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.

Fairfax reported that the pair broke into a Kyabram home between January 4 and January 6 this year after the residents left their property for a holiday. 

Hughes and Hutchinson drove to the 200m driveway at the property and on realising no-one was home, looked around.

They stole an anvil and left, deciding to return when it was dark, and upon returning broke into a shed and ransacked it.

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 other items valued at a total of $37,000.

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 had had to cancel after the money was stolen.

Being pensioners, they said, they would never be able to save that amount again, and remained fearful of another burglary. 

Hutchinson and Hughes took the safe to a Lancaster home, where it was forced open and the cash inside divided up, and 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 and 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.

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 kept off 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".

Sentencing was adjourned to this week.