An ex-private schoolboy begged a magistrate for mercy in a handwritten letter to court after he used a schoolgirl’s stolen credit card to go on a wild vodka bender.
Lachie Chittenden, 18, son of former Colliers real estate managing director Peter Chittenden, bought 14 vodka drinks in just 29 minutes during the Schoolies Week booze binge in Byron Bay in November.
But his big night out was paid for using a stolen American Express card of another girl celebrating Schoolies Week – a stranger to him – after he had blown all his own cash on the pokies.
The former Scots College boarder, where fees are up to $48,630 a year, pleaded guilty to a charge of dishonestly obtaining the 14 drinks by deception and appeared at Picton Local Court, south-west of Sydney on Friday, for sentencing.
Magistrate David Degnan told Chittenden he ‘could see the fear in his eyes’ as he warned him he could be jailed for up to 10 years
‘There are moments in your life where your integrity is tested – and you failed,’ he told the teenager who fronted court dressed in beige chinos, blue checked shirt, blue tie and RM Williams boots.
A magistrate told former private schoolboy Lachie Chittenden (pictured with his barrister Maurice Baroni) he ‘could see the fear in his eyes’ as he warned he could jail him for to 10 years
Chittenden, 18, (pictured) son of former Colliers real estate managing director Peter Chittenden, bought 14 vodka drinks in 29 minutes during Schoolies Week booze binge
Court documents revealed Jemma Fricke was a complete stranger to Chittenden but was also celebrating Schoolies Week in Byron Bay at the same time and place as him.
The Melbourne private schoolgirl victim had her driver’s licence and two bank cards stolen from a pocket of her handbag at the Northern Hotel in Byron Bay on November 28, 2023, sometime after 9pm.
Chittenden had previously claimed ‘some man’ had given him the card, but Magistrate Degnan demanded the teenager tell him the truth.
‘Who is going to go up to an 18 year old and say here, have this credit card. Who gave it to him?’ demanded the magistrate.
‘It was a friend,’ admitted Chittenden. ‘I don’t know where he got it from but he handed it to me. I wasn’t thinking properly. It was a stupid mistake.’
Police told the court Chittenden then bought a round of four vodka raspberries in the same hotel at 9.28pm, running up a bill of $44.79 which he paid by tapping her card at the bar.
He then bought two more identical rounds at 9.35pm and 9.46pm, before a final round of two more of the vodka drinks at 9.57pm, for a total cost of $156.77.
But whenever he used her card to pay for the drinks by tapping at the bar’s cash register, the court heard Ms Fricke got notifications about the payments on her phone.
Chittenden’s barrister Maurice Baroni told the court his client had wanted to pay Ms Fricke back but did not know who she was, although the magistrate pointed out that her name was in the details of the charge against Chittenden.
The teenager had pleaded guilty earlier in the week at Moss Vale Local Court in the NSW Southern Highlands, near his family’s nine-bedroom, 67-hectare farmhouse home in Berry.
Teenager Lachie Chittenden (left) used a schoolgirl’s stolen American Express credit card to go on a wild vodka-fuelled bender in Byron Bay during Schoolies
Lachie Chittenden, 18, son of former Colliers real estate managing director Peter Chittenden, bought 14 vodka drinks in just 29 minutes during a boozed-up frenzy (father and son are pictured together at a charity event in 2019)
Chittenden used a stolen American Express card of another girl celebrating Schoolies Week and ran up a $156 bill within minutes at The Northern Hotel in Byron Bay
On Friday, Chittenden – who was vice house captain at Scots – gave the court a letter of apology and character references in a bid to escape a conviction being recorded.
He told the court ‘how greatly remorseful I am for my actions during my time at Schoolies.’
He added: ‘I am not proud of what I have done and feel very embarrassed. I had a lot to drink that night.
‘I do know the difference between right and wrong as I was brought up by two loving parents who I have let down.
‘I regret my actions every day and wish I could go back to right my wrongs….I am disappointed in myself for ever doing it in the first place.’
He also supplied character references from the So They Can charity his mother Keri Chittenden runs which supports children in Africa, a local solicitor and his old director of boarding at Scots College.
But the magistrate dismissed one of the character reference’s claim that the incident was a ‘momentary lapse of judgement.’
‘Well, that’s wrong,’ said magistrate Degnan. ‘It’s not momentary. He did it four times.’
Ms Fricke realised her cards were missing – and she was not buying those drinks – so alerted security, who then used CCTV and till receipts to trace it back to Chittenden.
They tracked Chittenden down and confronted him in the bar and found the stolen AmEx card in his shirt pocket.
Police were called to the scene and immediately arrested him for fraud before he told them he had ‘consumed the drinks’ and added: ‘I did everything. I was stupid.
‘I tapped the card. I spent all my money on the pokies.’
On Friday, Magistrate Degnan said Schoolies Week had changed since his days of leaving school.
The former student of Scots College – where fees are up to $48,6430 a year – pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a charge of dishonestly obtaining the 14 drinks by deception
Chittenden (pictured), who told police he was a farmhand, bought three rounds of four vodka raspberries and then a final round of two more during the 29-minute boozefest
The case was heard at Moss Vale Local Court, near his family’s sprawling nine-bedroom, 67-hectare farmhouse home in Berry in the NSW Southern Highlands (pictured)
‘School leavers think they are entitled to go up to Byron Bay and Queensland just to have a time of getting drunk,’ he said. ‘Now the police have had to be involved.
‘The fact that you got yourself so intoxicated that you allegedly acted out of character…is not a mitigating factor. You are responsible, not someone else.
‘I understand you are young. I understand that this clearly shows the executive function of your brain is not finished developing – and won’t until you’re 25/27.
‘[But] you’re playing first grade… This is a serious offence. It carries up to 10 years in jail.’
Daily Mail Australia revealed earlier in the week that Chittenden had not told his father of his arrest, after his parents had separated last year and he lived with his mother.
She sat at the back of the court and wiped away tears as Chittenden’s remorse and letter of apology to the court was welcomed by the magistrate.
‘The fact that one of your parents knew about it – and that’s the one you live with – is what’s important to me,’ said the magistrate.
He added: ‘I can see by your stance that you know how serious this is, I can see the fear in your eyes.’
Magistrate Degnan ordered Chittenden to pay his victim back through the courts and sentenced him to a two-year correctional release order without recording a conviction.
‘Not every mistake needs to be punished with a conviction,’ he added.
‘Keep out of trouble. Good luck.’
Chittenden refused to speak to reporters as he entered and left the court.