Wayne Grady leaves court after admitting to stealing tools from his former boss, who he claims owed him unpaid wages.
Wayne Grady leaves court after admitting to stealing tools from his former boss, who he claims owed him unpaid wages. Ross Irby

Magistrate lets sacked worker walk over stolen tools

FRUSTRATED when his boss sacked him and did not pay him the wages he believed he was owed, a dad of six set about obtaining payment by other means.

When a police prosecutor revealed the story behind the theft of gardening tools that were intended to be held as 'ransom' to obtain outstanding wages, an Ipswich magistrate showed the disgruntled worker some leniency.

The court heard the sacked worker believed he was owed $800.

Going before Ipswich Magistrates Court, former garden maintenance worker Wayne William Grady, 38, pleaded guilty to stealing from Daren Matthews at Karalee on February 3.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Nicholas Turnbull said Grady was told by his employer on January 31 he was no longer employed, which was followed by a dispute over payment.

On February 3 a male was seen by neighbours at a house in Karalee, opening a toolbox and removing tools.

The court heard the man told the neighbour that he would give the tools back when his former boss paid him the wages owed.

Mr Matthews later contacted police and gave them Grady's address.

Sgt Turnbull said when police visited Grady he admitted taking the tools, which included two whipper-snippers and a leaf blower.

"He said he needed the money to pay the bills and family groceries," Sgt Turnbull said.

Defence barrister Kevin Rose said when he spoke to Grady he initially believed he may have a legal defence in a "claim of right".

Mr Rose said Grady held a genuine belief he could hold the man's property until his wage was paid.

He said Grady had six children aged between three and 20 and had worked in the mines in the Hunter Valley, been a crane operator and dogman, but was now unemployed.

"He was owed $800 in wages. He is beginning a civil action to recover the moneys," he said.

Mr Rose said Grady's belief he could take the goods meant it was not a run of the mill case.

"Mr Grady did go about it the wrong way," Mr Rose said.

Magistrate Virginia Sturgess noted police seemed reluctant to charge Grady.

"Police describe you as being remorseful and really (it would appear) the police didn't really want to charge you. The complainant did," Ms Sturgess said.

"I am sure it is extremely frustrating that you worked and were not being paid, but there are better ways to deal with this than take the tools.

"It is not appropriate to take property and hold it to ransom."

Finding there was no need to punish him further because coming to court was enough, Ms Sturgess absolved him "absolutely" of the charge.

Mr Grady was free to go with no further punishment.