Belfast prankster gets 18 months probation for 'joke' armed robbery gone wrong
Darren McDonagh wore a balaclava and produced a knife to trick a 'Facebook friend'
A Belfast man who staged a prank attempted robbery at his local tobacconists has been ordered to serve 18 months probation.
Darren McDonagh wore a balaclava and produced a large knife during the pretend raid, prosecutors said.
The 23-year-old, of Leeson Street in the city, pleaded guilty to a charge of common assault.
Belfast Magistrates' Court heard today how he was masked when he went into the premises on May 6.
A note reached to the female shop assistant - who he knew through Facebook - stated no-one would get hurt if she followed simple instructions.
It added that money and tobacco was being taken.
According to a prosecution lawyer McDonagh took a large knife from a bag and tapped the counter in front her.
But after a few seconds he pulled off the balaclava and said: "It's only me."
McDonagh then told her he was only there to get 10 cigarettes.
Following his arrest he insisted that he never intended to cause any fear.
Defence counsel John O'Connor told the court McDonagh lived across the street from the shop and knew the victim through social media.
The barrister said: "This was a practical joke that went extremely wrong."
He added that his client has since been barred from the tobacco shop and apologised to the staff member.
District Judge Fiona Bagnall set out how she was at first considering a prison sentence before learning McDonagh acted as a prank.
Backing a recommendation to have the defendant put on probation, she imposed an 18-month order for the assault.
Referring to his Facebook friendship with the victim, the judge added: "I bet they are not now."