Recidivist Dunedin thief out to fix his life steals tools instead

A recidivist thief with more than 160 convictions might be an “old dog” but he is capable of “new tricks”, his lawyer says.

Paul Anthony Peter Bell managed to talk his way out of a prison term when he was sentenced on dishonesty and driving charges last year.

”I’ve come to a point in my life where this is it for me. It’s either make or break for me, and I want to make it,” Bell told Judge Russell Walker at the Dunedin District Court.

The rhetoric resulted in a sentence of community detention and intensive supervision — an attempt to give the man the tools he needed to turn his life around.

It was a different kind of tools, however, that brought about his most recent downfall.

On August 24 last year, while still serving the sentence from his prior crimes, Bell and his partner drove to Mitre 10 Mega in South Dunedin.

The co-defendant was first to browse the hardware store, selecting a five-piece power-tool pack worth $1800 and simply wheeling the trolley out of a side door and into the car park.

Next was Bell’s turn.

After asking a staff member for recommendations, he too loaded up a trolley with numerous items and exited through the same door.

However, a security tag on one of the tools set off an alarm and he was pursued to his car by a staff member.

It was a misunderstanding, Bell said.

He claimed to have paid for the goods at the trade counter and agreed to drive there to clear up the issue.

Instead, he sped out of the car park, tyres spinning on the asphalt, and nearly causing a collision in Andersons Bay Rd as he made his getaway.

Counsel Rhona Daysh said Bell had a “new-found determination to do good things”, and she had props to prove it.

She showed Judge Kevin Phillips a box of carvings her client had produced.

“He’s an old dog but he can learn new tricks,” Daysh said.

She explained Bell only stole the tools because of a “ghost debt”.

Gang members had allegedly turned up at his house and forced him into the crime, she said.

Despite Bell’s failure to complete his last community-based sentence, the judge agreed not to lock him up.

The defendant was sentenced to four months’ home detention and ordered to pay $2111 reparation.

Judge Phillips said he would have ordered forfeiture of Bell’s vehicle but for a lack of ownership information.

Instead he disqualified him from driving for six months.

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