A man was friendly to a group picnicking nearby at Lake Wendouree on Christmas Day and offered to share food before stealing their car, a court has heard.
Justin Baulch, 22, pleaded guilty at the Ballarat Magistrates' Court on Tuesday to 10 charges.
Police prosecutor Senior Constable Steve Repac said the victim parked her car on Wendouree Parade on Christmas Day in 2019 and put her car keys on a table in a rotunda near Lake Wendouree.
The court heard Baulch and another man were cooking a barbecue inside the rotunda and became aggressive to the victim and others with her, claiming they had reserved the table.
When the group said they were moving to another table, Baulch and the other man became friendly to the group and offered to share their food with them.
It was nasty offending to innocent people who were trying to enjoy themselves and have a barbecue.Magistrate Letizia Torres
Senior Constable Repac said the victim and her group later moved to a table outside the rotunda to play cards and they heard the men in an argument with a family nearby.
The court heard Baulch and the other man then approached the victim and apologised for becoming angry about the reserved table, before they left the area around 3pm.
At 4.30pm, the victim prepared to leave the picnic and realised her car keys had been taken from the table and her car was gone.
A witness saw Baulch and the other man from the barbecue driving the car on Wendouree Parade.
Senior Constable Repac said one of the witnesses found the two men's profiles on social media and identified them to police.
The witness also put a call out on a Facebook page for information about the stolen car and someone provided information they had seen the car in the backyard of a Delacombe property.
Police attended and located the car locked in the backyard. The person in the house said Baulch had dropped off the car in the backyard in the evening of December 25.
At court on Tuesday, Baulch also faced charges relating to two petrol drive-offs, driving a stolen car with false plates and stealing items from Dan Murphys and Kmart in Ballarat.
Defence lawyer Hollie Lyons said Baulch had 'spiralled out of control' due to his increasing drug habit, keeping an 'unsavoury peer group' and losing custody of his five-year-old daughter.
"His daughter is his primary concern and is the motivating feature as to why he wants to get out of jail and do better," she said.
Ms Lyons said it 'broke his heart' to miss his daughter's first day of school because he was in prison.
She said Baulch was a youthful offender, had used his time in custody productively by completing drug rehabilitation courses and his offending was mostly 'opportunistic' and 'petty'.
Magistrate Letizia Torres said she disagreed the offending was 'petty' and described the Christmas Day offence as 'nasty' and 'serious'.
"He led them to think they were being friendly together and then stole their car," she said.
"It was nasty offending to innocent people who were trying to enjoy themselves and have a barbecue."
Ms Torres sentenced Baulch to 77 days imprisonment time already served and an 18-month community corrections order with requirements he complete drug treatment and rehabilitation and unpaid community work.
"You cannot take drugs and you cannot offend," she said.
"Otherwise you will face longer jail terms and the courts won't believe what you tell them.
"Because you are young I am going to give you this opportunity."
The court heard Baulch had also served a three month jail sentence previously for similar offences.
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