Man jailed for stealing ute: ‘classic example’ of opportunistic theft

A MAN who stole a $35,000 ute from a service station in broad daylight last year has been jailed for more than a year.

Ryan Nicholson, 28, appeared in the Ballarat Magistrates Court yesterday, where he pleaded guilty to theft of a motor vehicle, as well as other drug and theft offences.

The court heard that on November 26 last year just after 6pm, Nicholson spotted a ute with its keys still in the ignition at the BP service station at the corner of Sturt and Gillies streets.

He got out of his van and drove away in the ute, which also had a trailer filled with motor bike equipment worth $4500 attached to it.

The owner returned from paying for petrol to notice his car had been stolen.

Police prosecutor Senior Constable Michelle Kilburn said police spotted Nicholson returning to his parked van less than three hours later, where he was arrested.

He was wearing the same clothes as when he stole the ute and had been captured on CCTV cameras at various locations throughout Ballarat.

He has spent 84 days in custody since the offence.

Defence lawyer Roberta Page said Nicholson could not explain why he took the car and at no stage did he attempt to sell or keep it.

The car was found two days later in Syncline Lane, with the trailer still attached.

“He seemed to come to his senses at one point but instead of returning it he left it in a side street,” Ms Page said.

“Since coming to Ballarat (in August last year), he found it hard to get work, found it hard to find stable accommodation.

“He wasn’t managing his finances and certainly wasn’t managing his mood.”

In sentencing, magistrate Peter Couzens said the offence was a “classic example of an opportunistic crime”.

The offence occurred while Nicholson was on a suspended sentence for previous matters.

“You have an appalling history of criminal offending since 2004,” said Mr Couzens.

“One can only imagine the impact that had on the owner of the car.”

Nicholson was sentenced to 14 months jail with a non-parole period of eight months. He was also ordered to pay $2200 in fines and had his driver’s licence disqualified for 12 months.