A Taree man in the grips of a gambling addiction has made a tearful address to the magistrate after being sentenced for stealing from his former employer.

Brenten Simon Zessin said he had become addicted to gambling more than a decade ago and it was a “sickness he wouldn’t wish upon anyone”.

“I’m not a bad person – if you took gambling out of my life the closest encounter I’ve had with the law is a speeding ticket,” he said.

The 33-year-old Wingham man had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of break and enter and stealing valued at less than $60,000 and had, through his lawyer, foreshadowed he would be applying for the matter to be dealt with under the mental health act.

But when he appeared before Magistrate Allison Hawkins for sentencing on Monday it was revealed he would no longer be pursuing the application, with his lawyer telling the court Zessin accepts full responsibility for his actions.

Zessin had been employed at the Jack and Co and branded BP service station on Commerce St, Taree for 18 months before he was let go on June 6 last year according to court documents.

In the following months he returned to the store on two occasions and stole money using his knowledge of a side roller door through which he could enter and access keys to the till.

In a bizarre twist – and one which his lawyer said showed his client knew what he was doing was wrong – he went back to the store on one occasion and returned a sum of $450.

Zessin then later tried to return the second $500 he had stolen but noticed the manager’s car there and decided to go to the police and hand himself in, it was heard in court.

While awaiting sentence Zessin has been on what his lawyer described as “onerous” bail conditions – reporting to police three times a week and abiding by a curfew – but said his client has never asked for relaxed conditions as he wanted to prove he could turn his life around.

Ms Hawkins said the recent offending was very disappointing considering he had served previous court orders for larceny but told him “people were still willing to back you”.

Zessin was supported in court on Monday by his mother.

The court heard he was seeking help for his gambling addiction by seeing both a gambling counsellor and financial planner.

For the two offences of break and enter he was convicted and ordered to serve a 12-month community corrections order, to perform 50 hours of community service work and continue to seek help for his gambling problem.

Zessin wept as the sentence was delivered and when Ms Hawkins was finished he spoke out, saying that when he was young he always applied himself and had had a bright future.

“I have also lived with the guilt and shame of stealing from a business who valued and trusted me,” Zessin said.

He also said he had a new partner and had “dragged her into all of this” but that he was determined to turn his life around.

Zessin also thanked Ms Hawkins for being “very kind” to him throughout the court process.

Extracted in full from:  https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/mid-north-coast/brenten-simon-zessin-sentenced-in-taree-court-for-jack-and-co-bp-stealing/news-story/9d1b95e7491ffac7b1e758b4131f21e5

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