South Coast bushfires: Couple jailed 18 months, with six-month non-parole periods

Kylie Eve Pobjie and Leon Elton have been jailed for 18 months but will be released on parole in six. Pictures: Facebook.
Kylie Eve Pobjie and Leon Elton have been jailed for 18 months but will be released on parole in six. Pictures: Facebook.

A Far South Coast man and woman who looted electronics from a fire-damaged store have each been jailed for 18 months, but will be released on parole in six.

Leon Elton and Kylie Eva Pobjie, of Central Tilba, pleaded guilty to twice entering the Batemans Bay's Betta Home Living store after it was damaged in the 2019 New Year's Eve bushfire.

On Monday, February 3, Pobjie sat quietly in the Batemans Bay Local Court dock, handcuffed and wearing prison-green shorts and T-shirt.

Elton appeared via audio-visual link a short time afterwards.

In each case, Magistrate Doug Dick accepted that the couple's first entry to the store on January 8 was opportunistic, but their second entry could not be cast in that light.

Defence solicitor Adam Sumbak told the court Pobjie had taken the unusual step of surrendering to police and had suffered a "disjointed and traumatic" childhood.

The mother of four had been sexually assaulted at the age of 13 by the relative of a friend, and had suffered abuse as an adult at the hands of a violent partner, which had triggered an addiction to the drug ice.

She had suffered a "significant and graphic level of domestic violence", Mr Sumbak told the court.

"She was stabbed, cut and held prisoner", he said, and she had remained in the relationship only because the partner had threatened to hurt her children.

In 2017 she was released from custody "clean" and remained sober until 2018, when a serious family disclosure "led to her using drugs again". "She went downhill," Mr Sumbak told the court.

He told the court the couple had driven to Batemans Bay "to score drugs" and it was only "when they passed the store" that the "idea was formed" of robbing it.

"It was a low level of planning," he said. The store was unoccupied and the theft was not accompanied by violence or vandalism.

However, Mr Sumbak acknowledged the vulnerability of the business and the community at the time.

Mr Sumbak said the couple had entered guilty pleas early.

He said Elton had expressed remorse and contrition and apologised to the court and the community.

"He takes full responsibility," Mr Sumbak said.

He said his client had lived in the Tilba area since he was six years old, but had begun using drugs while working in a stressful role at Darwin airport as a plumber. He had moved back to Tilba "to get help from his family" and was admitted to hospital in 2016 suffering from drug-induced psychosis.

He had continued to suffer from mental illness and had been "receiving injections for a significant period", Mr Sumbak told the court.

Elton had not been taking his medication at the time of the offence, but his condition had improved since receiving treatment in jail.

Mr Sumbak said his client had lost his job due to his crimes and "he will feel the wrath of the community".

"He will have to live with it for a long time," Mr Sumbak said.

Magistrate Dick told Elton that his family "could not hide" and suffered as a result of the couple's "despicable" actions.

Magistrate Dick told Pobjie he believed her crimes continued to "weigh heavily on your mind", but he needed to send a clear message.

He told both that the court would not be swayed by public opinion at a time "when feelings are running high", but that the community was continuing to feel the effects of bushfires.

Both offenders pleaded guilty to and were convicted off entering a building to commit an indictable offence, larceny, a second count of entering to commit an indictable offence and larceny and disposing of stolen property.

For a second offence of drug driving PobJie was fined $800 and disqualified from driving for six months.

Elton was convicted of possessing a prohibited drug "ice" and fined $600.

Their sentences were backdated to January 11 and they will be eligible for parole on July 10.

File picture.

File picture.