Belfast pair who hijacked woman's car to use in gun robbery at chemist are jailed
Two Belfast men who stole a car which they used as a getaway vehicle after robbing a pharmacy at gunpoint have been handed sentencing totalling 15 years today.
Darren Hynes (32) and 28-year old Ryan Buchanan were jailed by Judge Patricia Smyth, who told the pair the offences they committed last April were "very serious".
Hynes, a father of two from Donegall Road, was handed an eight-year sentence, while Buchanan, a father of one from Highfern Gardens, was sentenced to seven.
They will both serve half their sentence in prison, with the remaining half on licence when they are released.
Belfast Crown Court heard that after the pair hijacked a woman's car, Buchanan stayed in the vehicle while Hynes entered the chemist's wearing a balaclava and brandishing a firearm.
The car was hijacked at around 2.45pm on August 4 last year, when they approached the motorist and asked her for the time. Buchanan then told her to get out of the Volkwagen Passat, and took her mobile, while Hynes got in the passenger seat.
The pair made off in the car, which was driven a short distance to the pharmacy on the Lisburn Road.
An armed Hynes walked into the premises and shouted for everyone to get down, before approaching the dispensary and asking for Dihydrocodeine to be handed over.
The pharmacist opened the cupboard housing the prescription medication, and a quantity of boxes were taken. As Hynes was leaving the chemist, he said "sorry girls". Both he and Buchanan then fled the scene in the stolen vehicle.
Hynes was arrested nine days later, and when his home was searched, clothing matching the description worn by the robber was located, as was an airgun and a home-made balaclava. During interview, Hynes said he was addicted to codeine and couldn't remember the incident.
Co-accused Buchanan was arrested four months after the robbery, and gave police a "no comment" response.
Both men later pleaded guilty to hijacking the car, and robbing the chemists. The court heard while Hynes had 62 previous convictions, Buchanan had 20.
The barrister representing Hynes said that while it was clear there was "some degree of planning", the incident itself was somewhat unsophisticated. The barrister said: "It was not a prolonged offence. Demands were made, drugs were taken and Mr Hynes left again."
The barrister said Hynes had, in the past, been the victim of several serious assaults, including being abducted by paramilitaries and shot in 2001 for anti-social behaviour - an experience branded as "horrific".
He also said Hynes had issues with alcohol and drugs, and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Buchanan's barrister said his client had since recognised that the experience of having a car stolen by him would have been a "traumatic incident" for the female motorist.
Sending the pair to prison, Judge Patricia Smyth said it was unclear whether or not the air gun found in Hynes home was the weapon used last August.
She said: "Whether the weapon was real or an imitation is not a factor in determining a sentence.
"The amount of fear created in the victim is likely to be the same."