4 March 2023

Burglar who stole from two homes during crime spree made victim feel 'violated'

| Albert McKnight
courts building

Mitchell John West, 25, will be sentenced to four years’ jail over a crime spree. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A serial criminal who stole from two homes in one night, which a justice said was likely because he wanted money to buy drugs, inflicted a “traumatic” experience on one of his victims, who was left feeling “violated”.

The newest string of crimes by 25-year-old Mitchell John West was revealed in documents that were tendered to the court after he pleaded guilty.

He and another man broke into a house in Throsby around 2 am on 30 April, 2021, when its residents were asleep.

An elderly mother was woken by them when they entered her room and West pointed a knife towards her and demanded her wallet, money and keys before looking under her blanket to see whether she was hiding anything. The men left, stealing several items including a Honda CRV.

A couple of hours later, two residents of a home in Casey were woken by their dogs barking and looked out of their balcony to see two people trying to steal their cars.

They raced downstairs, but West drove off with another man in the residents’ Suzuki Vitara. Other items had also been stolen from their home.

West was arrested after a police chase that same morning.

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When it came to his sentencing on Thursday (2 March), Acting Justice Richard Refshauge told the ACT Supreme Court that it must have been terrible for the mother, an elderly woman who spoke little English, to be woken by the knife-wielding intruders.

The intrusion also involved the “violation of security” that one’s home should provide, he said.

The woman who lived at the home in Casey said it had been “traumatic”, a “terrifying experience” and she felt “quite violated”, which the acting justice said was, regrettably, a common feeling among those who faced burglaries.

Now she is “constantly vigilant when the dogs bark” and found it “extremely stressful” to organise for her car to be repaired, change the locks at home and deal with the insurance companies.

Her partner said he had been left feeling in a state of “permanent unrest” in his own home. He now triple-checks doors and windows each night and investigates noises.

West said he had been under the influence of amphetamines at the time of his crime spree and the acting justice thought it was most likely that he had been seeking funds to buy drugs.

He began using methamphetamine as a teenager and eventually started taking it every day.

Acting Justice Refshauge also said West had an extensive criminal history as he had committed 23 offences as an adult, mostly burglary and theft.

But West’s half-sister said his remorse for his crimes was “extreme”.

“He is very sorry for his actions and wishes he could take them back,” she said.

He had last been working in a plastering business for his half-sister’s father, who also wrote a reference for the court saying he had been a good employee who was well mannered and polite and had shown a maturity beyond his years.

Acting Justice Refshauge noted West had suffered from significant childhood disadvantage as well as drug dependency.

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West had pleaded guilty to charges of attempted aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, failing to stop for police and theft, as well as driving and riding in a vehicle without consent.

While he had been in custody for 672 days by Thursday, about 250 of those days were for an unrelated sentence.

Acting Justice Refshauge said he’d decided to sentence West to four years’ jail, but he would be allowed to be released from custody on a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order.

However, it had recently become apparent that West wouldn’t be accepted into residential rehabilitation until Monday (6 March), so Acting Justice Refshauge adjourned to complete the sentencing that day so West could go straight to a rehabilitation facility.

“I hope that you stay strong for that period of time and I apologise to you for that hiccup in the matter,” the acting justice told him.

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