Jailed: robbery spree drug addict who used a saw to menace staff
A man who targeted five Belfast businesses in a drug-induced crime spree while armed with various weapons, including a saw, has been jailed.
In a 24-hour period William Meekin carried out two robberies and attempted a further three, in the Shankill area and in the east of the city.
Meekin (29), who Belfast Crown Court heard has an extremely low IQ, was handed a seven-year sentence by Judge McFarland, who spoke of the need to protect small businesses and their often vulnerable employees.
Meekin, from Abbey Road in Millisle, was told half his sentence will be served in prison, with the remainder will be spent on licence when he is released.
The court heard that Meekin armed himself with, among other things, the saw, a knife and a Bacardi Breezer bottle, which he used to threaten staff.
Crown barrister Robin Steer told the court all five incidents occured between the late evening of Monday, February 20, and the following afternoon, when he was arrested.
Mr Steer said that during interview Meekin denied the offences but provided no alibis.
However, he was subsequently identified by four different witnesses, and later admitted the two robberies and three attempted robberies.
Branding the offences as "rather unsophisticated but including the use of a weapon", Mr Steer said Meekin's extremely low IQ placed him in a category of "moderate learning disability".
Defence barrister Jonny Connolly said that while Meekin's offending was unacceptable, he asked the court to "take a step back" and assess his client's behaviour against a backdrop of low intelligence and drug addiction.
Revealing Meekin became addicted to Lyrica after being prescribed it by a GP, Mr Connolly said after this Meekin "started to take drugs on a regular basis", adding that this addiction was reflected by one of the five incidents, at a Boots store.
Telling Meekin "it is obvious you were high on drugs", Judge McFarland said that while the incidents lacked planning or sophistication and were "rather amateurish", they were serious and employees were put at risk.
The judge added: "Whilst the robberies were short in duration, the effects of these can be long-lasting for the staff."