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Teenager charged with burglaries avoids jail by the ‘skin of your teeth’

Tuesday 22 August 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Court, National


Teenager charged with burglaries avoids jail by the ‘skin of your teeth’

A teenager involved in multiple burglaries on Rarotonga has been told she has narrowly avoided a prison sentence.

Eve Rahela Teeio Check appeared for sentencing in her role of the two high-profile burglaries in which retailers Fave Designs was targeted in early March and South Seas International raided in early April.

Check, 18, appeared on two charges of joint burglary before Justices of the Peace John Whitta, Nadine Newnham and Mata Nooroa at the Ministry of Justice building in Avarua on Monday.

Check was part of a trio accused of being involved in the crimes.

JP Newnham told the court that on March 13 between 11pm and 12 am, Check and the others drove from Arorangi to town where they parked next to St Joseph’s Cathedral.

Check changed her clothes and ran across to Fave Designs where she unsuccessfully attempted to open a door with a crowbar.

She went to another door on the premises and used spanners to enter the property where cash, shoes and clothing were taken.

The office was ransacked where water was poured over computers. The business was left with a bill for $8830.

On April 2 between 11pm and 12am, together with the co-defendants, she again drove from Arorangi to town where they parked behind the Empire Cinema.

Check put on a pair of gloves, and once the locks to South Seas International had been removed by one of her co-defendants, she entered the store and started filling bags with items.

A total of $29,380 in goods were reported stolen.

The court heard, at 18, she still lived with her parents and one of the co-defendants.

She had moved to the Cook Islands when she was 14 and left school shortly afterwards, she had a good relationship with her parents and her mother had said she was willing to assist with reparations.

Check had said she thought the idea of committing the burglaries was “cool” but now regretted her actions.

The likeliness of her reoffending had been deemed low and it was her first appearance before the courts.

There had been a recommendation for 18 months of supervision with six months of community service.

The aggravating factors included no regard, loss of income to the businesses and the cost to replace the stolen goods.

Victim impact statements showed the burglaries had caused the victims emotional distress.

They felt violated, and one business owner continuously awoke at early hours of the morning to check CCTV footage.

Another had lost trust in their customers and they had to reach into their savings following the incident.

The burglaries occurred when they were still struggling in the aftermath of Covid-19 and there had been significant stress leading up to the arrest of the trio.

In her defence, Check had expressed remorse and provided several letters of support from friends and employers.

“You are intelligent, your parents ask for leniency,” JP Newnham said.

JP Whitta said they were two very serious offences, each with a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment.

“Burglary is an invasion.”

JP Whitta said close to $40,000 of property was taken in both burglaries.  

Just over $2000 in stock still had been unrecovered that had been reported stolen from Fave Designs, and $24,000 in reported stolen stock from South Seas International was still unrecovered.

JP Whitta said the burglaries were highly premeditated.

“You took tools, at Fave Designs you tried to enter three times, at South Sea you took 348 items.

“The businesses have been left hurt; one of the owners has struggled to sleep and pay bills.”

JP Whitta said Check would do well to feel how it would feel if it was done to her.

“You are described as intelligent, reliable and keen to learn; it is difficult to understand your offending.

“We find it difficult to understand why you would think it was cool.”

He said he was not entirely convinced of her remorse.

There had been a starting point of two years’ jail with a 25 per cent discount for a guilty plea and 25 per cent discount for her age.

In considering a non –custodial sentence when left with 12 months, JP Whitta said two years of probation with six months of community service would be the sentence.

Check would be ordered to attend workshops as directed and not to leave the Cook Islands without permission.

She was ordered to pay $10,862 reparation and court costs of $50.

“You have avoided jail by the skin of your teeth; we worked very hard on the sentence,” JP Whitta said.

“You only get one chance; you now have a very serious conviction; it stays with you for the rest of your life.”