A Nelson man who stole a human skull and bones, and then offered to return them in exchange for meth, was today sentenced to nine months' home detention.
Cayden Minto, who in May admitted charges of burglary and blackmail, narrowly avoided prison because of steps made to turn his life around.
The incident took place last December after Minto broke into Nelson's Masonic Lodge.
A skull and crossbones are Freemason symbols used in candidate initiations.
Judge David Ruth said in the Nelson District Court this afternoon that with support from Minto's fiancee, her mother and his own mother, there was some hope for reform.
The 27-year-old had been facing the possibility of 23 months in prison, as a starting point.
Judge Ruth said it was time to put his other life behind him, but gave him a stern warning.
"Certainly if you were to relapse into methamphetamine or any other drug use again, I think your aspirations and those of your fiancee would be forlorn," Judge Ruth said.
Defence lawyer Steven Zindel said Minto, who had been on electronic bail awaiting sentence, had managed to keep away from drugs and alcohol for 10 months before the incident. It led to a three-week relapse, and then had been clean for the past five months.
"It's not always easy to stay on the wagon - to keep away from these temptations, but with the help of the church and a counsellor, he has been better," Mr Zindel said.
Mr Zindel said Minto, who was still coming to terms with some extremely difficult issues he faced growing up, had become something of a public face of the dangers of the "pernicious drug methamphetamine".
Minto featured in this year's RNZ series on the drug, and his story was re-printed in a local Nelson community newspaper.
Mr Zindel credited the support from Minto's partner, her mother and his own mother for his recovery and new direction.
He said there was no promise it would prevent any further offending, but it seemed Minto had turned a corner.
The Crown opposed his future mother-in-law's address as suitable for home detention.
Sophie O'Donoghue said there had been three police safety orders issued in the past involving Minto.
She said they were verbal arguments linked to his methamphetamine use, including one that escalated to the extent that a child at the address needed to be removed to a safer environment.
Ms O'Donoghue said Minto had on several occasions breached his curfew conditions while on electronic bail, including that he had when committing the offence for which he was sentenced today.
She said Minto's fiancee knew he had committed the offence and that the stolen property was hidden in the garage.
Judge Ruth said Minto had long history of offending and was at high risk of re-offending, but he had to balance that against what his defence lawyer had said.
He said the property perhaps did not seem suitable, and a number of issues had been raised particularly around domestic disharmony, but they were at times when Minto was under the influence of methamphetamine.
"I have read letter from your fiancee and your mother, and from you and they all have the same theme - that you want to put your life in order and spend your time properly, within a domestic relationship."
Judge Ruth said there may be a better prospect of Minto succeeding if he put home detention in place with rehabilitative conditions.
Minto was sentenced to home detention at his fiancee's mother's home, with a warning that any relapse would end in prison.