Drug addiction drives Taranaki meat theft and debit card fraud

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Senalla Witehira stole $130 worth of bacon and spent nearly $900 on a debit card she stole from a social worker. Photo / 123rf

A woman who plucked $130 of bacon and racked up nearly $900 on a debit card stolen from a social worker did so to fund her drug addiction.

Senalla Witehira led a chaotic existence, Judge Tony Greig told New Plymouth District Court on Friday.

But it wasn’t really his fault, he added.

A pre-sentence report compiled by Community Probation informed the judge of her background and current situation, helping her understand how she would end up in court facing 17 charges of dishonesty.

Witehira was introduced to drugs and theft at a young age, her current housing situation was unstable, and drugs continued to be a problem for her.

It’s to her credit that she didn’t have a “huge, huge” list of convictions and wasn’t convicted of something “much more serious”, the judge said.

But perhaps Witehira’s most difficult struggle right now was that she couldn’t contact her children, which had previously led her to break a security order.

The judge sympathized with her about it.

“Being separated from your children is the worst pain you can have.”

Senalla Witehira appeared in New Plymouth District Court on Friday.  Photo/Tara Shaskey
Senalla Witehira appeared in New Plymouth District Court on Friday. Photo/Tara Shaskey

Witehira appeared in court via audiovisual link from Arohata Jail after Judge Greig previously remanded her.

It was something he didn’t like doing, but he felt it was the only way to create some stability for Witehira and get his help.

“It’s a very crude instrument that takes people into custody, I know that,” he said in his final appearance.

“I think I told you you were chaotic, I didn’t really mean you were chaotic, I meant your life seemed chaotic.”

In July last year, Witehira was caught stealing five packs of bacon, totaling $130, from a Taranaki supermarket.

Then, in September, she found a debit card belonging to her family’s social worker.

She pocketed it and used it 16 times, spending a total of $892.82 on items such as food and cigarettes.

To explain the offense, she told police that she sold the items she purchased on the card to fund her meth addiction.

In its report, probation acknowledged that Witehira had complex needs, but the service was confident it could help.

Witehira told the judge she was doing better and smiled when he gave hope that she could see her children again.

Judge Greig told him to make a contact request to the family court and that he would handle the case.

“We’ll see what we can do to connect you with your children.”

In the meantime, he sentenced Witehira to 18 months of intensive supervision, which he will supervise judicially.

The single sentencing option allows the court to actively manage and monitor an offender’s compliance with a sentence by providing the judge with regular reports.

“I wish you luck, really, and I look forward to getting some good reports,” he told her.

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