Electricity bills are contributing to financial pressure for many people who are turning to charities for help.
Electricity bills are contributing to financial pressure for many people who are turning to charities for help. John Farmer

Electricity thief’s two-year bond

A 62-YEAR-OLD South Grafton man's plans to grow hydroponic strawberries in his shed at Peppermint Pl using stolen electricity have landed him on a two-year good-behaviour bond.

Eric Wayne Johnson's reason for bypassing the Essential Energy meter on his property to power a 2800W light set up in his shed, received a scathing assessment from magistrate David Heilpern in Grafton Local Court on Monday.

"I wasn't born yesterday," he said. "There were traces of cannabis found on your property and I find your claim you were planning to grow hydroponic strawberries completely fanciful.

"The value of strawberries must be high to warrant lamps using 2800 watts of electricity."

Solicitor Michelle Herrmann said her client's plan to grow strawberries included getting a mate to rig up a connection for the shed.

She said the set-up had an adaptor to run the light, but it had heated up badly and he had closed it down. But she admitted her client had then used the connection to power a LCD television and a refrigerator.

The police facts said police with a sniffer dog had executed a search warrant on the property on February 21.

The sniffer dog gave positive responses in the bedroom Johnson used in the house and at the door of the shed.

Police searched the garage and found it set up with seven 400W lamps and several 600W fluorescent lamps. There were also ventilation ducts into the ceiling and floor. The shed was completely clean with no traces of any plants.

Further searches of the property found some cannabis residues under sheets of plastic and in the bed Johnson slept in.

Police were suspicious of the electrical set-up of the shed and called in Essential Energy, who found the power supply had been bypassed.

Police said although no cannabis was found in the shed, it was clear the room had been used to grow it.

Mr Heilpern described Johnson's offence as a crime of selfishness.

"Your desire for free electricity ensures other people, like the single mother down the road, have to pay more for their electricity," he said.

"The maximum penalty for this offence is five years imprisonment, which indicates how seriously this offence is taken."



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