Armed robber who stole to pay for drink and drugs jailed for six years
A man who robbed four small businesses in east Belfast while brandishing a knife and issuing threats has been jailed.
Jason Darren Hagans (28), from Briar Park in Ballywalter, targeted three businesses in the same area in one night.
Handing Hagans a sentence of six years and two months for a total of 11 offences, Judge Patricia Smyth branded his criminality as "serious".
She said: "A large number of employees working in a small area of Belfast were put under considerable fear by the defendant, who was carrying a knife and issuing sinister threats."
Prior to yesterday's sentencing, Belfast Crown Court heard that the first business Hagans targeted was Winemark on the Beersbridge Road. On the evening of November 28, 2014, he entered the off-licence armed with a knife. During this incident, Hagans approached a female member of staff, told her he knew where she lived and threatened her before demanding money and cigarettes. He made off with £154.73 worth of cigarettes.
On December 16, 2014, a total of three businesses were robbed and an attempt was made to rob a fourth. All of the incidents occurred within a short time, and in the same area of the city.
Hagans entered Russells Shop 4 U on the Castlereagh Road at around 5.30pm. He left the store, but then returned a short time later and approached an employee and demanded money from the till.
During the incident, he told the staff member, "Don't make me use the knife", and walked away with £100 in cash and cigarettes valued at £228.54.
Also targeted that evening was McDonald's pharmacy on the Castlereagh Road. Hagans was first seen in the premises between 4.30pm and 5pm, but returned at around 5.45pm. Armed with a knife, he threatened a female member of staff, saying he would kill her if she did not give him money. The defendant netted £190 from this robbery.
At around 6pm on the same evening, Hagans walked into the Mace on My Lady's Road. He waited until a female worker was alone before walking up to her, producing a knife and demanding money. He subsequently made off with £175 and cigarettes worth £475.
Around 15 minutes later, Hagans entered the Candy Box store on the Woodstock Road. He approached a female staff member, produced a knife and threatened that he would cut her throat if she did not hand over money.
However, the worker lifted a mallet from under the counter, causing Hagans to flee the shop with her in pursuit.
When he was arrested for the spate of robberies on February 18, 2015, Hagans was found to be in possession of 11.5 grams of cannabis.
He later admitted that he carried out the robberies to pay for alcohol and drugs.
Judge Smyth spoke of the "element of fear engendered in the employees", as well as the "negative impact" such a crime spree would have had on small businesses. She accepted that while there were threats issued, no violence was used.
Judge Smyth also revealed that due to Hagans being deemed dangerous by the Probation Board, she was adding an additional extended period of two years licence to his sentence.