A story that captured the hearts and minds of Sydney residents has come to a bittersweet end, with a terminally ill cancer patient charged with stealing an 82 year-old's mobility scooter.
Pensioner Laurie Adams became a household name overnight after Police appealed to the public for information about the theft of his scooter.
It led to an outpouring of both outrage for the suspect and support for Laurie, with numerous people offering Mr Adams their own mobility scooters.
Within days, community assistance led to the arrest of Jason Pye, who was charged with larceny for stealing the scooter. However, in a bittersweet twist, it has been revealed that Mr Pye has mobility issues himself and has terminal cancer.
At approximately 2.30pm on 8 November 2020, Mr Adams parked his red mobility scooter outside his house on Macarthur Street in Ultimo, in Sydney's inner-city.
Two hours later, he noticed it was no longer there. The pensioner phoned Police who commenced investigating.
They were able to obtain CCTV footage which showed the suspect riding the scooter.
Police took to airwaves to asked for any information surrounding the stealing offence. They released the CCTV footage and appealed to the public to identify the suspect.
The footage showed the rider in a motocross helmet approaching a nearby light rail station at Pyrmont and then travelling to Kingsford.
Acting Superintendent Paul Dunstan spoke highly of the community assistance Police had received.
"Our investigators have been inundated with calls from members of the public, which led to an arrest last night. This is a fine example of the community coming together to assist police in this investigation."
Who is Laurie Adams?
Laurie Adams is partially deaf and has been diagnosed with emphysema and heart problems.
After Australians were introduced to him, he received an outpouring of support, with offers of replacement scooters, flooding in from as far afield as Melbourne.
A Police spokesperson told media that they were "inundated" with information which ultimately led to the return of the scooter and the capture of Mr Pye.
Speaking to the media after the return of the scooter, Mr Adams said, "It was part of my body and I was lost without it, but I've got to thank everybody."
"I just want to pay somebody something, but what can I do? I'm so, so happy I've got it back.I get emotional, so I'm sorry about that - I've never had so much attention in my life. I'm going to have big troubles later on because everyone wants to give me a scooter - and what am I going to do with six scooters?"
The 82-year-old referred to the scooter as a "part of my body".
Commentators have said that elderly members of the community rely on mobility scooters for their independence.
Laurie confessed that he didn't have any friends, but enjoys cleaning up and donating second-hand toys to local children, as well as feeding lorikeets that frequent the area.
"When you're 82, nobody wants you. I don't want to go to a rest home, I'm too independent. I want to stay in my own home."
Acting Inspector Anderson Lessing, from Sydney Local area command was appalled by offending and did not hold back when speaking to the media.
"It's a callous and heartless attack and we obviously want to identify who he is so we can put him before the courts. This suspect has deprived him of his ability to go up to the shops, buy a coffee, a newspaper - essentially deprived him of his independence."
However, Laurie took a different approach.
He was of the view that punishment may not be required if the scooter was returned.
"I don't know how someone could take it, knowing it belonged to somebody else with the mobility aids on it. I just felt they shouldn't have taken it. If anybody's got it - just bring it back, no questions asked. Because it's a part of my body, really, truly."
Bail application granted
On 11 November 2020, police announced they had charged 36-year-old Jason Pye with larceny.
Mr Pye was identified as living in Daceyville in Sydney's eastern suburbs. He was initially bail refused by Police and appeared at Waverley Local Court for a bail application.
Mr Pye's criminal defence lawyers accepted that he had committed a string of offences in the past and served 16 months in prison.
However, they highlighted the fact that Mr Pye attended hospital every week for cancer treatment and that the cancer had spread from his lungs to his spine.
The Court also heard that Mr Pye was also receiving regular treatment for substance addiction.
Magistrate Ross Hudson made reference to the Accused's medical condition and the gap between recent and past offences.
He ultimately granted him bail on strict conditions, including that he has to report to police every day, is not allowed to enter Ultimo and must not leave his home between 10:00pm and 6:00am.
Mr Pye said, "thank you" to the magistrate before leaving with his walker.
The case will next be heard on 25 November 2020.
After hearing that Mr Pye had been charged, Mr Adams said, Laurie said, "I feel like I'd like to help this person . I feel sorry for him."
Larceny charges explained
The definition of larceny is contained in Section 117 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). It explains that stealing property or money, with the intent of keeping it, will make you guilty of an offence.
If you want to defend larceny charges, you can argue that the prosecution have not proven beyond reasonable doubt that:
- The Accused took and carried away property or money; and
- That property belonged to another person or legal entity; and
- The Accused intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property when they took it; and
- The Accused did not have permission to take the property; and
- They took the property dishonestly.
The definition of 'intention to permanently deprive' is that at the time you took the property, you intended to keep it.
If you intended on returning it at a later stage, then you will not fall into this definition.
If at the time you took the property you had not decided whether you were going to keep the property or not, you would not have formed an intent to permanently deprive and will be found 'not guilty'.
The following are defences to larceny charges:
- Identification: The prosecution cannot prove you were responsible for the stealing. If your DNA or fingerprints were found at the scene, we can instruct our team of DNA and fingerprint experts to cast doubt on the prosecution evidence.
- Claim of right: If you held an honest belief that the property taken was yours.
- Larceny by Mistake: If the property was taken by mistake, you can be found 'not guilty'. A common example is where you received an overpayment, but only became aware after receiving the money. If once you discover the overpayment you decide to keep the money, you will not be guilty of larceny as you only formed the intention to permanently deprive after the taking of the money.
- Abandonment: Where property was abandoned, you will not be guilty of larceny. Further, if you find property and there are no reasonable steps you can take to determine the owner of the property, you will not be guilty of larceny (eg. finding a $20 note in an empty area)
- Duress: You were forced to commit the offence
- Necessity: You needed to commit the offence
The maximum penalty for Larceny is 5 years imprisonment if the case is heard in the District Court.
However, this penalty is reduced if the case is determined the Local Court. If the value of the property is over $5,000, the maximum penalty is 2 years jail. This changes if the value of the property is under $5,000, as the maximum penalty is 2 years jail and/or a fine of $5,500. If the value of the property is under $2,000, the maximum penalty is 2 years jail and/or a fine of $2,200.
Looking at statistics for larceny charges since 2018, 9% of offenders received no criminal conviction. 19% of offenders were sentenced to some form of imprisonment and 13% of offenders were sentenced to full-time jail. All remaining offenders received criminal convictions.
Charged with Larceny?
If you are charged with larceny or stealing, there are ways to plead guilty but avoid a criminal conviction. This is most commonly achieved by convincing the Court to grant you either a Section 10 dismissal or a Conditional Release Order Without Conviction.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.