21 Aug 2008

Informer-burglar may get two-thirds cut in sentence

5:13 am on 21 August 2008

A burglar with an axe and a long criminal record may be entitled to a discount of up to 60% in his prison sentence because he is a police informer, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

The court has quashed a sentence of three years and three months imposed by Rotorua District Court on Conrad Gray, who had 17 prior convictions for burglary and 11 for dishonesty.

At the time of the axe incident on 14 November 2007, he was 24 and had been released on parole a month earlier.

Rotorua District Court heard that Gray kicked in his neighbour's back door, told the man he would "wear the axe" if he called police, stole his car and later crashed it.

However, the sentencing judge was unaware Gray was giving evidence in an unrelated case.

While the Court of Appeal acknowledges that the axe burglary case involved what it describes as a "serious home invasion" with "threats of serious violence", it cites a 1985 precedent favouring mitigation of the sentence by half to two thirds.

The Court of Appeal considers it is clear that credits for a guilty plea and assistance to police may go as high as 60%.

Accordingly, it quashed the sentence of three years and three months and sent the case back to the district court.