A would-be cash-in-transit robber who tried to rob a policeman who was posing as a security guard, less than two weeks after he was released from jail, has been jailed for eight years.
Jailing 56-year-old Michael McCullagh at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Gordon Kerr QC told him that although he was getting maximum credit for “facing up” at the earliest opportunity, his record, the offence itself and the fact that it came so soon after his release were “significant aggravating factors”.
Earlier he had heard that McCullagh, from Donegall Street in Belfast, was one of a gang who had planned the cash-in-transit robbery on September 18, 2009, at the Westwood shopping centre on the Springfield Road.
However, a police officer had taken the place of the security guard and when an unsuspecting McCullagh stepped forward, brandishing a small kitchen knife and demanding the cash box, other officers who had been lying in wait swooped and arrested him.
Commenting that essentially McCullagh was “caught red-handed”, prosecuting lawyer Ian Tannahill revealed the robbery came just 12 days after McCullagh had been released from jail for a previous robbery.
Arrested and interviewed, McCullagh made “full admissions” and later pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and possessing a weapon, the knife.
Mr Tannahill told the court that in the Crown view, the offence was aggravated by reason of McCullagh's criminal record which among other convictions contains 13 for robbery, the fact that he had been released from jail less than two weeks beforehand, that a weapon was used and that it had been a well planned and organised robbery.