A transient Tauranga pensioner has been jailed for the 129th time after he admitted interfering with five motor vehicles in the central business district.

James Hemi Gates, 69, who pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawful interfering with motor vehicles when he appeared in Tauranga District Court, was jailed for six months.

This is a charge which attracts a maximum penalty of two years' prison.

The court was told that at 9.16pm on January 29 this year Gates approached multiple vehicles on Devonport Rd, and tried five door handles to see if the cars were unlocked.


His actions were captured on the Tauranga City Council's CCTV security system, and the operator reported the matter to police.

Gates initially claimed he was checking his daughter's vehicle to see if it was unlocked.

But once confronted with the CCTV footage evidence, he told police that he had not yet received his benefit payment and was "trying to survive".

Gates had only been released from prison two weeks earlier after he was jailed for 11 months in August last year for the same type of offending, the court heard.

Lawyer Tony Balme told Judge Christopher Harding that his client's National Super payments had not yet been resumed after being suspended when he was jailed in August.

Fortunately, there was no damage and no inconvenience caused to members of the public and Mr Gates wished to be sentenced without a report, Balme said.

Mr Balme said Gates was currently of no fixed abode.

His client had rejected an offer to live at the Tauranga Men's Shelter, and he could not offer an alternative address where he could serve a community-based sentence, he said.


Judge Harding told Gates there was only one sentence that could be imposed given he had 253 prior convictions and served 128 previous sentences of imprisonment.

"Mr Gates you had only released from prison two weeks ago, and here you are again back before the court for doing the same thing."

Gates had numerous dishonesty convictions of a similar nature, and also been trespassed from some business premises in the central business district, the judge said.

Judge Harding said Gates had been sent to prison a number of times for this type of charge and the public had the right to be protected from his continued offending.

Gates was sentenced to six months' prison with no conditions upon release.

Judge Harding urged Gates to accept the offer to live at the night shelter when he was released from prison and sort out his benefit problems, so he did not offend again.