Wendy Nocente at Ipswich Courthouse, November 25, 2019.
Wendy Nocente at Ipswich Courthouse, November 25, 2019.

Accused burglars sack lawyers in court delay

FOUR robbery co-accused were set to be sentenced when two of the offenders sacked their legal teams at the last minute.

A large number of their family members were present in the courtroom for the sentencing of Alex Sela and Brenton Nowlan when it was postponed until next year.

The court heard Sela had replaced his barrister that morning with Ali Rana from Go To Court Lawyers. Nowlan replaced his barrister with a lawyer yet to be named.

An hour later, the sentences of their two co-accused went ahead before Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren SC.

Wendy Nocente, 40, (also known as Wendy Hill), pleaded guilty to attempted robbery in company on November 2, 2018; and enter dwelling with intent in company (burglary).

Natasha Higgins, 42, pleaded guilty to entering a dwelling with intent in company (burglary); and robbery in company.

The Crown prosecutor Cameron Wilkins did not state where the offences occurred.

Higgins had already served 262 days in custody, and Nocente served 132 days before she was granted bail on March 13.

Alex Sela at Ipswich Courthouse, November 25, 2019.
Alex Sela at Ipswich Courthouse, November 25, 2019.

Higgins will have to return to Brisbane Supreme Court for breach of a previous sentence.

Mr Wilkins said Nocente knew the victim and the four went to his residence and began banging on windows and calling out.

A female told them he was not home.

Three offenders went inside and Nocente stayed outside talking to the female.

Sela threatened violence.

The victim left the house with Sela and got into the car, with Nocente driving the group to a bank.

Nocente had said: “I’ve got you. You thought it was over. Are you happy to see me?”

Sela told the man not to do anything funny or he would whip out his gun.

The man went inside the bank and Nocente was seen on CCTV walking in, then quickly leaving.

The man told the bank manager to call police and officers intercepted both Sela and Nocente.

Mr Wilkins said Higgins was the principle offender in the burglary in company offence, and a party to the robbery.

She was found in possession of stolen items.

Mr Wilkins said Nocente’s involvement wasn’t as serious, having driven the man and Sela to the bank.

Defence barrister Sarah Cartledge said Higgins had a lifelong drug addiction and had previously done rehabilitation.

Ms Cartledge said Higgins said the money was owed to her at the time although this did not offer an excuse. There was no suggestion she made any threats.

Ms Cartledge said Higgins had a two-and-a-half-year Supreme Court suspended sentence hanging over her head.

Barrister Scott Neaves said Nocente had made positive changes and led a meaningful life before substance abuse.

Taking into account the time she had already spent in jail, Mr Neaves said there would be no point in returning Nocente to jail for a short time.

Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren SC said before the offence Higgins went to the house to see about $400 that was owed to her.

Higgins, Sela and Nowlan later returned and went inside. Nocente stayed outside with her car.

He said it was Sela who demanded cash and made threats that were heard (and recorded) during a triple-0 call.

Judge Horneman-Wren said $200 and a mobile phone was taken from the man.

Nowlan took the victim’s motorbike keys.

Judge Horneman-Wren said while the incident was referred to as being a home invasion no violence was used.

Higgins was sentenced to concurrent jail terms of two and a half years and 18 months with immediate eligibility to begin her parole application.

She will have to go back before the Supreme Court.

Nocente received two concurrent sentences of 18 months jail.

Taking into account the four and a half months she had spent in custody, she was granted immediate parole.

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