Notorious criminal Derek Brockwell given indeterminate jail term
One of Britain's most notorious criminals who is already serving 22 life sentences was on Wednesday given an indeterminate jail term by a Belfast court.
Derek Brockwell - who has a history of escaping from prisons in England and Scotland - was on the run from Portlaoise jail in the Republic when he was arrested in the beer garden of a Belfast pub in February 2015.
An indeterminate sentence means that no definite period of imprisonment is given, and that Brockwell's sentence will be determined based on his conduct.
Jailing the 56-year old Scottish man, Judge Piers Grant branded him a "career criminal" and told him he will serve a minimum of eight years before being considered for release by the Parole Commissioners.
Belfast Crown Court heard that prior to his arrest, Brockwell was serving a seven-year sentence in the Republic for robberies, and it was whilst serving this sentence in Portlaoise prison that he escaped from custody and crossed the border.
At the time, he was also the subject of other court orders, including 22 life sentences imposed in January 2000 at the Old Bailey in London for armed robbery and firearms offences in and around the capital.
Brockwell, who was tasered by police before stabbing himself in the stomach during his arrest in a Wetherspoon beer garden, was told that the lengthy sentence reflected a need to protect the public.
He escaped from prison staff while staff were escorting him from Portlaoise to a hospital where he was being treated for diabetes in February 2015.
Following his escape, Brockwell made his way across the border and arrived in Belfast on February 18, 2015. He bought a knife in a camping shop, tried to rob staff at the Spar on Howard Street and following this botched armed robbery, he targeted a pharmacy on the Dublin Road. At this second premises, he threatened an employee at knifepoint and was handed £65 from the till.
Brockwell, whose address was given as Frankland Prison in Durham, was arrested that evening in the beer garden of the Wetherspoon pub.
He was subsequently charged with robbery, attempted robbery and two counts of possessing a knife with intent to commit a robbery. Despite admitting carrying out the offences, Brockwell claimed he was acting under duress, pleaded not guilty and was tried by a jury at Belfast Crown Court earlier this year.
During the trial, the jury heard Brockwell claim that after arriving in Belfast, he went to a house in India Street where he met with men who were to arrange a boat from Carrickfergus back to Scotland. He said he was quoted a fee, and when the price of the boat trip increased, he was left with no option but to go out and rob.
Despite claiming he was acting under pressure, the jury rejected his version of events and found him guilty of all four offences.
At today's sentencing, Judge Grant spoke of Brockwell's "extensive" criminal record, branded him a "career criminal" and said: "There is no indication you are likely to reform or change your ways."
Pointing out the armed incidents in Belfast were committed while Brockwell was on the run following a violent escape from custody in the Republic, Judge Grant told the defendant: "You have shown no remorse or insight into these offences, or the fear caused to vulnerable employees of these shops."
The Judge praised the stoicism of the staff members in both premises, adding: "This was clearly a very frightening experience for them."
Judge Grant also told the court that the Probation Board had accessed Brockwell as presenting both a risk of further offending, and of further offending, adding the lengthy sentence was imposed to protect the public.
Ordering Brockwell to serve at least the next eight years behind bars, Judge Grant told him: "Criminal activity has been your main source of income for years."
The Judge also set out his reasons for passing an indeterminate sentence and spoke of Brockwell's resentment of authority, history of violence and of escaping from custody "with the assistance of other members of the criminal fraternity."
Belfast Telegraph Digital