2 May 2022

Prison artist who makes 'very good paintings' stole safe containing $70,000 from UC supermarket

| Albert McKnight
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University of Canberra supermarket

Peter Michael Crawford, 38, has been jailed for burglarising a University of Canberra supermarket. Photo: Google Maps.

While a burglar who stole a total of $75,000 from a University of Canberra supermarket does earn some income from his paintings, a judge has said there is no “realistic prospect” of him ever repaying even a small part of that amount back.

Peter Michael Crawford agreed he and a co-offender went into the supermarket twice on 15 September 2020, the first time stealing items and the second time removing a safe containing $70,000 in cash.

In recently released sentencing remarks, the ACT Supreme Court’s Justice Michael Elkaim said despite being 38-years old, Crawford had amassed a “very significant criminal record”, including offences in NSW and Queensland.

“He has not done much work because he has spent so much time either in prison or using drugs,” Justice Elkaim said.

“He told the authors of the pre-sentence report that ‘he does not know what to do with his time when he is out in the community’.”

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The supermarket burglary was committed while he was supposed to be undergoing rehabilitation in the ACT Drug and Alcohol Court.

“Clearly, the efforts at rehabilitation were ineffective,” Justice Elkaim remarked.

However, he did write a letter to the court apologising for his behaviour.

Justice Elkaim said Crawford had an “awful upbringing” and significant mental health issues.

“Added to the overall tragedy” was how he is not without skills, he said.

“I have been shown photographs of two paintings done in prison and which are for sale through a detainee artwork virtual gallery,” he said.

“To the extent that I can gauge, they are very good paintings. If the offender could continue his artwork outside of prison, I am sure that would go a long way towards giving him a respectable occupation and income.

“Sending him back to prison seems almost pointless, but he must be punished for his criminal actions and there is no viable alternative to imprisonment.”

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The ACT-born stepfather to five children pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and the Crown prosecution sought a reparation order worth about $4500.

He was already in jail over a separate crime that had a non-parole period ending in February 2023.

Justice Elkaim sentenced him to 19 months’ jail, partially concurrent on the above sentence, and reset the non-parole period so he is eligible to be released on parole in March 2024.

He also said while Crawford has the possibility of some income from his paintings, he did not see any “realistic prospect” of him paying the amount back and thought a reparation order would be “pointless”.

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