Gladstone man steals $21k of goods to feed ice addiction

DAYS after the Federal Government announced it would establish a National Ice Taskforce to tackle the growing scourge, the drug continues to rear its ugly head here in Gladstone.

Fuelling his $400-$800-a-day addiction drove a 24-year-old Gladstone man to a string of serious thefts throughout central Queensland.

Byron James Stewart yesterday faced 35 separate charges in Gladstone Magistrates Court.

His defence lawyer said the offending had been opportunistic and was fuelling his addiction to ice.

Stewart is now behind bars.

Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said it was a "highly dangerous drug" and "having a devastating impact on regional communities and our young people".

Prosecutor Merrilyn Hoskins told the court yesterday that Byron James Stewart, 24, had admitted to breaking into a number of construction sites in central Queensland from August 2014 until February this year.

Items stolen included hundreds of litres of diesel fuel from various sites, UHF radios, mobile phones, CCTV cameras, copper cable, tools and power tools, laptop computers and iPads.

Defence lawyer Cassandra Litchfield said Stewart's offending was the result of a $400-$800 a day ice habit, and that he had been using for about two years.

She did also say that "about two or three weeks prior to being arrested", Stewart had, with the help of his mother, made a conscious decision to change his lifestyle and stop using.

Magistrate Mark Morrow explained that the thefts involved items to the value of around $21,000.

"To fuel your drug habit you have committed a large number of offences," he told Stewart.

The impact of the drug, and drug users, on the wider community was one of the main concerns for Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd, who spoke out after the release of the Australian Crime Commission report on the spread of the drug in Queensland last month.

"Sadly, too many people have a story to tell about how the drug has destroyed a family, a friend, a colleague, or how it's had shocking impacts on a community," Mr O'Dowd said.

The report argued that Australia was becoming a lucrative marketplace, with illicit drug users paying a premium price.

Over the past two years, the Australian Federal Police has seized seven tonnes of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of more than $4 billion.

Stewart was sentenced to 18 months jail on the theft charges plus one month for being in possession of cannabis seeds, and another 14 days for possession of a pipe which could be used for smoking drugs.

He will not be eligible for parole until September 18 this year.

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