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A man with a “lifelong compulsion to steal” will have time to mull over his thieving ways after a Pictou judge sentenced him to 57 months behind bars for a bizarre series of thefts including one where he set up a tent to conduct a yard sale on the property of a woman whose trailer he’d looted.

Arthur Stuart Baxter pleaded guilty to theft, and possessing stolen goods, including a shotgun, near Haliburton, Pictou County, on Aug. 1, 2017. The 51-year-old also pleaded guilty to stealing a truck on June 8, 2018 in Barneys River.

“After receiving a complaint from a neighbour, police investigated and found Mr. Baxter living in a tent on the property of Judy Russell. On arrival at the property they found the accused to be in possession of several items belonging to Ms. Russell. He had been conducting a yard sale of items that he had taken from a trailer on the property,” Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Patrick Duncan said in a written decision released Tuesday.

“Some items had been sold. The police were able to recover some of the items and the loss to Ms. Russell has been described by the Crown as ‘nominal.’”

Baxter, who didn’t have a firearms licence, had a shotgun on him that he’d stolen from Russell’s trailer.

Police then figured out Baxter had stolen the 2015 Chevrolet Silverado belonging to Beverly Williams.

“It was recovered in a commercial parking lot in New Glasgow,” Duncan said.

“There were wallets and cash belonging to Ms. Williams and her husband, inside the vehicle. Purchases valued at approximately $1,317 were made using Mr. Williams’ debit card. An amount estimated between $1,200 and $1,500 cash was alleged by Ms. Williams to be in the truck when it was stolen. The money was not recovered.”

The judge pointed out that Baxter has “a very substantial criminal record” that goes back 35 years and includes 106 prior convictions.

“My review of the record indicates that the offences are largely property related crimes. There are no crimes of violence,” Duncan said.

“As he described it today Mr. Baxter has had a lifelong compulsion to steal that he does not understand. He wonders if there is a physiological or psychological reasons for his behaviour. That is something that, given his history, may be worth exploring with Correctional Services while he is serving his sentence.”

The prosecutor and Baxter’s lawyer both recommended he be sentenced to 57 months in prison for his recent crimes.

“There has been time spent in pre-sentence custody,” Duncan said.

“Counsel agree that the accused should get a credit of 21 months for that time. The result is a go-forward sentence, beginning today, of three years in custody.”

That sentence is appropriate because it falls within the range of punishment for similar crimes, the judge said.

“In this case, any rehabilitative programming will have to be addressed through Correction Services Canada, and, of course, by Mr. Baxter himself. There may be a medical reason for his conduct, but it is not of such a nature as to relieve him of the criminal law consequences for his crimes,” Duncan said.

“There is probably not much that I could say to you today, Mr. Baxter, that other judges have not said to you on other occasions before today. At some point you are going to have to make a decision as to where you intend to spend the rest of your life, whether it’s going to be in prison, or not. At your age, maybe the decision is already evident. It will be up to you to decide how you want to spend your old age.”

While he had doubts about whether Baxter will be able to pay a fine, Duncan ordered him to pay an $800 victim surcharge by the fall of 2021. The judge also banned Baxter from possessing any firearm for five years.

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