A brazen burglar who stole Christmas presents from a solo mother and re-gifted them to his own family has been sent to prison for his foul festive offending.

And his legal team tried to prevent his image being published in the Herald, saying it would be "publicly humiliating" to the thief and "contribute to his punishment".

In December, Vashni Seleni Ulufale, 23, was arrested and charged with burglary following a police investigation dubbed "Operation Bad Santa".

Eleven days before Christmas, Ulufale broke into the Hillcrest home of solo mother Angela while she was at work and her son at daycare.


He stole a swathe of property including her television, iPad, jewellery, alcohol and Christmas presents from under the tree, including a new bike for her son.

Days later, after Angela alerted police to the thief trying to sell off some of her things online, officers executed a search warrant at Ulufale's South Auckland home.

As his partner and children watched on, police officers unwrapped all the presents under their Christmas tree to see if anything matched items taken from Angela.

At the house, police found the bike Angela had bought her son.

It had been removed from the box, constructed and gifted to the child by Ulufale.

Police later visited Angela and Ulufale's partner to drop off a haul of presents for the children that had been donated.

Ulufale has been in custody since he first appeared in the North Shore District Court on Christmas Eve.

He was sentenced this morning by Judge Josephine Bouchier, who blasted him for his crime.


"This was devastating for the family involved," she said.

She read a letter of apology Ulufale had written to Angela.

The letter was not read aloud but Judge Bouchier accepted it was evidence of remorse.

"I certainly agree with the letter ... he accepts responsibility and has to own up for it," she said.

"And that he wanted to provide for his own children but that was at the expense of others and that shouldn't have been,"

Submissions filed in court before sentencing revealed that Ulufale was "disowned" by his family following his arrest.

But his sister was in court to support him today, along with his young son.

Judge Bouchier sentenced Ulufale to 16.5 months in jail, but granted leave for him to make an application to transfer the sentence to one of home detention if a suitable address was secured by his sister.

Angela did not attend court, but spoke to the Herald after Ulufale was sentenced.

"I am pleased it's over," she said.

"I'm just happy the police caught him - you hear the stats that people just don't get caught," she said.

"It's also nice to know that you're not going to get targeted again by the same person."

Angela said she was yet to receive any letter from Ulufale.

She didn't feel any hatred or anger towards him.

"I feel for the guy," she said.

"It's a really hard world out there and he's just trying to provide for his family - you can understand how people get stuck in his situation, but there is also a lot of help out there so it doesn't really excuse what he did.

"I'm hopeful this (sentence) means he will be on a better path."

She was pleased to hear he had an option for home detention in the future.

"He's got kids so if he gets home detention, that's nicer for them than jail," she said

"What's done is done ... I can't hate him ... but I am grateful police caught him, I worried a lot about my safety after I was burgled."

Defence tries to block Herald coverage

Judge Bouchier allowed the Herald to photograph and film Ulufale in court - despite a move by his lawyer to prevent visual coverage of the sentencing.

Pani Chamberlin argued that simply reporting the matter was sufficient and there was no need for Ulufale to be filmed or photographed.

"The publication of film, photographs and sound recordings are likely to be publicly humiliating to Mr Ulufale and ... contribute to his punishment," she said.

"It is accepted that the principle of open justice is an important consideration ... obtaining and publishing (visual recordings) of Mr Ulufale's sentencing hearing is not necessary.

"Any film, photograph's or sound recordings obtained and published on the internet will be publicly available permanently, punishing Mr Ulufale beyond any successful rehabilitation he achieves."

Chamberlin said Ulufale had "already been humiliated" as his family had disowned him.

"There is little legitimate public interest in publishing (images) ... the media will be able to report details of the sentencing and Mr Ulufale's name.

"The principles of open justice would not be frustrated by being prevented from publishing film, photographs or sound recordings."

Judge Bouchier rejected the defence submissions.

"I do not accept counsel's submissions regarding the possible humiliation of Mr Uluafe," she said.

"Nothing raised by counsel means that the principle of open justice in the court should not prevail."

She granted the Herald's application for coverage.