An itinerant man has faced court over allegations of a 2018 break-in at the Succulent Cafe in Byron Bay, which closed in 2019.
An itinerant man has faced court over allegations of a 2018 break-in at the Succulent Cafe in Byron Bay, which closed in 2019.

Man arrested for cafe break-in while in COVID quarantine

A MAN who broke into a Byron Bay business was arrested while in quarantine more than 18 months later, a court has heard.

Ben Asange, 40, had just returned from Malaysia and was in mandatory quarantine due to the pandemic when he was arrested in July.

When he faced Byron Bay Local Court via video link from custody on Monday, the court heard he couldn't remember the break-in, during which he entered the Succulent Cafe in Byron St, Byron Bay on the night of November 22, 2018.

He stole an iPad, eftpos machine and $1000 cash and was captured on CCTV.

He had been admitted to, then released from, the Tweed Hospital twice in two days prior to the break-in, due to drug and mental health issues.

"He doesn't remember the incident but he's willing to accept there is evidence of it," defence solicitor Kylie Anderson-Clarke said.

Ms Anderson-Clarke told the court Asange had "an unfortunate history" and a "particularly difficult childhood".

She asked the court to find that her client had a reduced moral culpability and was a less suitable "vehicle for general deterrence" because of his background and mental ill health.

Asange expressed being at a "crossroads" and "not wanting to go back to his earlier lifestyle" in a handwritten letter to the court.

Along with the break-in charge, Asange had earlier pleaded guilty to damaging a vehicle after he was struck at low-speed on a Williams Lane, Byron Bay pedestrian crossing in August, 2018.

The court heard the driver's vision was impaired by the sun at the time and Asange lashed out after being thrown onto the bonnet.

Magistrate Karen Stafford said the penalty for the break-in charge must "reflect the harm to small business owners when their businesses are broken into".

"It really has a big impact on business owners," Ms Stafford said.

"There needs to be some recognition of that."

Asange was convicted of both offences. For the break-in, he received a nine month intensive corrections order and was ordered to pay $3069 compensation.

The cafe has closed since the incident.



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