Infamous Tauranga recidivist offender jailed again after more than 250 convictions

A well-known Tauranga recidivist offender who has racked up more than 250 convictions, including many for dishonesty, has been given more prison time.

James Hemi Gates, 72, received a six-month jail term on February 12 for charges of theft ex-car and unlawful inference with a motor vehicle.

His release from prison on this sentence was subject to the special condition that he report to Community Corrections within 72 hours but failed to do.

Gates, who appeared in Tauranga District Court on Tuesday

via an audio link from prison, also pleaded guilty to three more dishonesty offences.

He admitted charges of theft ex-car, unlawfully gets into a motor vehicle, and unlawfully being found in a building through his lawyer Amy Baker.

The police summary of facts revealed that Gates visited the AA Auto Centre on First Avenue, Tauranga at 11.18am on May 19 where customers’ vehicles were parked.

He tried the door handles of two vehicles, and once inside started looking for things to steal, and stole a remote car key for one vehicle, which was later returned to its owner.

When a member of the public disturbed him, Gates fled the area.

However, 16 minutes later he entered an unlocked garage roller door at the rear of a commercial premise on Devonport Rd, Tauranga and again searched for items to steal.

Gates, who was found inside the garage on arrival, told the attending police that he had an alcohol problem and stole to support his addiction.

Baker told Judge David Cameron that Gates had been in custody since May 20 which was effectively equivalent to him serving four months in prison.

Gates acknowledged the repetitive pattern of his offending, she said.

In March 2020, when the defendant was sentenced to four-and-half months prison for similar offending it was revealed he had served more than 130 prison terms.

Gates also has multiple convictions for interfering with motor vehicles, shoplifting and theft of property plus a number of other types of convictions.

In February 2018 when jailed for his 129th time after he admitted interfering with a motor vehicle, Judge Christopher Harding revealed he had 253 prior convictions

Baker told Judge Cameron that given police amended an original burglary charge to unlawfully being found in a building meant Gates’ offending was “more minor in nature”.

She urged the judge to impose a sentence of four months’ prison on Gates which would “effectively be a time-served situation”.

Baker said Gate’s sister, seated in the public gallery, had travelled up from Christchurch to support her brother after being estranged from each other for some time.

On his release from prison, the intention was for Gates to travel back to Christchurch with his sister, who was happy to have him live with her, she said.

“This would be a very significant thing for Mr Gates, far better than him being released back into the community only to resume sleeping rough and possibly reoffending again.”

Baker also asked that no prison release conditions be imposed on her client.

Judge Cameron agreed on a short sentence of four months’ prison was the appropriate sanction for Gates’ recent spate of offending.

“I need to hold you accountable Mr Gates, and also denounce and deter you from committing like-offending.”

Given Gates’ “extensively criminal history” dating back to 1969, including numerous dishonesty convictions, his release conditions would remain until February 11, 2022.

Baker thanked Judge Cameron, saying “she hoped” this would be the last time Gates would appear in this court.

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