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Man who stole $1500 in clothes from Taranaki shop and cut off ankle bracelet finds God

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Leighton Antoni Johnson cut off his monitoring bracelet while he was on home detention, then studied religion behind bars while on remand. Photo / Michael Craig

Three days into a sentence of home detention, a man with a rap sheet packed with dishonesty convictions was given permission to leave his home to go shopping.

But what Leighton Antoni Johnson did instead was steal an armful of clothing, worth a total of $1542, and then cut off the ankle bracelet monitoring his whereabouts.

In total, the 42-year-old has amassed 90 convictions since 1999, 33 of which were for dishonesty crimes, and after his latest offence, Johnson was charged with shoplifting and remanded into custody.

The shoplifting from Rebel Sports in New Plymouth took place on June 17 this year, but Johnson was not caught until July 23.

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While he was also charged with a breach of home detention, the Department of Corrections did not make an application to review the sentence he had failed to comply with.

“So basically, you have not done any meaningful time to deal with the three [previous] convictions,” Judge Gregory Hikaka told Johnson on Tuesday in New Plymouth District Court.

“You did basically three days of a seven-month home detention sentence.”

A probation officer present in court confirmed an application to review Johnson’s sentence had not been made after he cut off his bracelet.

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While the officer was unsure why it had been overlooked, he said it was “too late now”.

Defence lawyer Kylie Pascoe said Johnson acknowledged being electronically monitored was “not for him”.

“He should have come to that realisation, obviously, before he accepted the sentence and then went on to cut the bracelet off.

“But his focus now seems to be a commitment to rehabilitation.”

She said during the four months Johnson had been in custody, he had “found his faith” and impressed Corrections workers with his positive attitude.

Pascoe had with her several of Johnson’s certificates and exam booklets relating to the religious course he had undertaken in prison.

She said he had earned grades of between 89 and 95 per cent, which showed a “real commitment by him”.

“Not just something that we often hear some of the inmates say.”

Pascoe suggested an end sentence of six months’ imprisonment for the shoplifting, with a cumulative sentence of three months for the breach.

Police prosecutor Lewis Sutton pointed out Johnson had received seven months of home detention as part of the earlier sentence, which would have been converted from a prison sentence of 14 months.

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“And now here we are talking about six months … and he’s committed further offences which [were] targeted offending at a high-value level.”

Judge Hikaka acknowledged Johnson had been working “diligently” while in prison and his newfound commitment to his faith.

But while he presented with a positive outlook, the judge said a pre-sentence report described him as having a high risk of re-offending, being a medium-level risk to others and having an entitled attitude with no interest in moving on from anti-social associates.

In sentencing Johnson to 10 months’ imprisonment and six months of post-release conditions, the judge encouraged him to stay the course of his rehabilitation.

“The test will be how you do out in the community.”

Tara Shaskey joined NZME in 2022 as a news director and Open Justice reporter. She has been a reporter since 2014 and previously worked at Stuff where she covered crime and justice, arts and entertainment, and Māori issues.

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