5 March 2024

Burglar avoids jail despite helping steal 46 phones from Westfield Belconnen

| Albert McKnight

Alan Hiribee Malibe was granted bail when he first faced court last year. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A young rugby league player who joined in a burglary at Westfield Belconnen, where a hammer and angle grinder-wielding group stole 46 phones, avoided being sent to jail when he was sentenced.

Alan Hiribee Malibe, 21, was convicted of charges that included two counts of aggravated burglary and handed an 18-month suspended jail sentence with 120 hours of community service in the ACT Supreme Court last week.

He was just 20 when, in the early hours of 1 March 2023, he and a co-offender pried open glass doors at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Belconnen, then crouched behind various pieces of furniture to avoid cleaners.

While it appeared they wanted to steal from an electronics shop in the shopping centre, they eventually fled and ran back to their car, most likely because the cleaners would have seen them, Acting Justice Peter Berman said in his sentencing remarks.

But the pair returned to the shopping centre with a third man on 21 June 2023, pried open the doors again and used an angle grinder to try to cut the security screen gate at the electronics store.

They also kicked at the security gate and used an axe to hack at the side of the gate until they made a hole.

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Malibe and his co-offender went inside and stole 46 mobile phones worth $14,767. They also caused $8670 in damage before they fled the scene. But, as the acting justice said, “They didn’t get very far”.

“Police saw them and arrested them. They recovered the mobile phones. The axe head and the angle grinder were found inside the shop,” he said.

Malibe was granted bail when he faced the Magistrates Court and went on to plead guilty.

The judge said Malibe, who lives just outside of the ACT, spent time playing rugby league after school and his coach described him as courteous, reliable and honest.

“[It’s] no surprise to me that he is ready to accept responsibility for his actions,” the coach said in a reference for the court.

“He has expressed a deep sense of remorse in making such a serious mistake and I believe moving forward, he will emerge a better person.”

READ ALSO Ex-real estate worker, drug dealer sentenced for roles in hammer-wielding robbery

Acting Justice Berman said Malibe had attributed his offending to the financial hardships his family had experienced since the COVID-19 pandemic and also said it was also connected to his consumption of alcohol.

The judge said being 21, Malibe was a young offender and a person who should be assisted to rehabilitate himself rather than focus on punishing him.

He was satisfied Malibe was remorseful and declined to make a reparations order for the $8670 worth of damage that had been caused due to his financial circumstances and youth.

His co-offender will be sentenced in the future.

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