Ross Irby, 14 October 2015

DAVID Edwin Guilbert was heading up the Bruce Highway to Gladstone with no cash so he filled up then did a petrol drive-off.

But the unpaid bill caught up with him and the 31-year-old found himself pleading guilty in Gladstone Magistrates Court to stealing petrol valued at $47.10 on August 15.

However, it was the $15,500 Guilbert owes to SPER (State Penalties Enforcement Registry) that caught the attention of magistrate Jason Schubert who called it “massive”.

Prosecutor Sgt Barry Stevens said Guilbert has five previous offences for dishonesty and the court fines had failed to stop his offending.

“He says he couldn’t afford to pay for the fuel and drove off. He did not make any arrangements to pay,” Sgt Stevens said.

“The prosecutor made it sound like I do it all the time,” Guilbert lamented to Mr Schubert.

“No, he says you have other offences of dishonesty,” Mr Schubert replied.

“There’s no excuse for stealing. There is no point,” Guilbert acknowledged.

Mr Schubert checked the amount the offender owes in fines and when the figure of $15,500 was revealed, he described it as a massive amount.

“I’ve been paying it off for more than 10 years,” Guilbert said.

“You seem to accrue fines more than paying them off,” Mr Schubert said.

The magistrate then asked Guilbert if he was just adding all the fines to his “SPER account,” a term he said some people referred to it as, because it was now a significant debt.

“I’m a pensioner. I’ve never missed one payment,” Guilbert said.

“That will take him 30 years to pay,” Sgt Stevens said.

Mr Schubert said he would not impose a fine for the stealing offence and instead consider that he be punished by way of an unpaid Community Service Order.

He asked Guilbert if he would consent to do the unpaid work to be overseen by Corrective Services.

“Okay,” he said.

“Your criminal history is appalling,” said Mr Schubert.

“You have numerous stealing, fraud offences.

“At $15,500 your SPER debt is ridiculously high.”

However, Mr Schubert noted Guilbert had co-operated with police over his latest offence.

He ordered that he do 40 hours of unpaid community work within the next six months.

Guilbert must not leave Queensland until the work is completed.

Mr Schubert warned him that failure to do the work meant he would be brought back to court and resentenced with jail the likely outcome.

Extracted in full from The Observer.