Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Drunken masked man jailed for robbing chemist a second time

A drunken and masked man who robbed his local chemist at knifepoint for a second time has been jailed for three years.

Belfast Crown Court heard that 52-year-old Gerard Armstrong robbed Mooney's chemist on Clifton Street last November to ensure he had an adequate supply of medication for the weekend after he had earlier taken all his prescribed medication in one go and feared 'running out' of supplies.

Prosecution lawyer David McGaughey revealed it was the second time Armstrong, from Finn House in Belfast, had robbed the pharmacy after he stealing from it six years ago in 2007.

He told the court that Armstrong was drunk, masked and armed with a five inch knife when he demanded staff hand over prescription painkillers and cash from the till.

Mr McAughey said the manager went to the dispensary and returned with the medication, before placing it in a carrier bag as ordered to do so.

Along with five £5 notes and two £20 notes, the manager also put a dye device into the bag with the lawyer adding and that this was the exact sum Armstrong had been in possession of when apprehended by police shortly afterwards.

After leaving the store Armstrong was watched by the staff "walking briskly" towards Henry Place and after calling police the manager and the owner pursued the accused, punching him in the face and wrestling him to the ground.

Mr McAughey said the dye pack had also exploded, meaning the pair could be certain they had been following and had detained "the right man", and that police were able to trace their location by the smoke coming from the plastic bag.

Mr McAughey said it was when police removed Armstrong's mask that Wilkinson "recognised him as the very same fellow who had robbed the store in 2007."

He added that during the robbery Mr Wilkinson had "feared for his life" and that in an interview with police the accused said he "had taken all his medication in one go that he was supposed to take over a period of time and then drunk vodka and cider at home and in a pub."

The prosecution lawyer said it was accepted the accused had a background of dependency on drugs and alcohol for some years but also had numerous convictions for dishonesty and deception and drug offences - receiving a jail term for robbing the same store in 2007.

Defence lawyer Declan Quinn said Mr Armstrong had suffered from mental health problems after losing his parents in a short period of time between 1990-1991 when he had just turned 30, using alcohol and drugs to cope with the difficulties he was experiencing at that time.

Jailing Armstrong Judge Gordon Kerr QC told him "these were serious types of offences" for which he could expect to receive a six year sentence.

However, he accepted Armstrong had pleaded guilty immediately "though I don't know how much credit I can give you as you had been caught at the scene, so to speak."

He told Armstrong: "You do not have a clear record and last time received a six year sentence for robbery of the same shop," adding that "being on drugs and drink is not any defence but I will give you credit for pleading guilty and if medical reports are correct there are signs of progress and that you will be able to work with your family on your release."

Ordering Armstring to spend half his sentence in jail and half on supervised licence conditions, the judge also imposed a  £50 offender levy.
 

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