Northern Ireland news

Jail term for man who robbed west Belfast convenience store armed with screwdriver

Laganside courthouse in Belfast

A 22-year old man who robbed a shop in west Belfast while brandishing a screwdriver has been jailed for 16 months.

David McLaughlin, from Glendale Avenue West, stole just under £700 from the till of the Costcutters store on the Stewartstown Road but he was apprehended by a shop assistant, who struck him with a stick and restrained him until police arrived.

Sending McLaughlin to jail, Judge RoseAnn McCormick QC said: "The robbery of small businesses has an impact not just on the people in the shop, but also potentially on the community it serves."

Judge McCormick was told that convenience store was targeted by McLaughlin around 7.30pm on October 24 last year.

Prosecutor Simon Jenkins said McLaughlin entered the store wearing gloves, a woollen hat, and brandishing a screwdriver. He walked behind the till and demanded cash, then grabbed all the paper money, which amounted to £695.

Mr Jenkins said that as he was walking out of the store, the shop assistant lifted a stick from behind till, jumped over the counter and struck McLaughlin as he tried to escape.

Helped by members of the public, the assistant restrained him until police arrived. McLaughlin was arrested with a screwdriver in one hand and the stolen cash in the other.

All the cash taken was returned, and during interview McLaughlin initially denied the offence.

Mr Jenkins said that when shown CCTV footage, McLaughlin admitted what he had done but blamed his actions on a decline in mental health and the number of tablets he had taken.

Defence barrister Samantha Madden said her client had "little memory of committing the offence itself as he was under the influence of prescription drugs", adding that last October he "had a significant debt to drug dealers" and was effectively homeless.

Saying McLaughlin accepted robbing the store was "an extremely foolish thing to do", Ms Madden branded the incident as a "particularly amateurish operation".

Ms Madden spoke of McLaughlin's remorse and said he had displayed a "good level" of victim awareness. She also revealed he was now engaging with community addiction services in a "sincere and fruitful attempt to turn his life around."

During sentencing, Judge McCormick noted that McLaughlin's problems with prescription drugs stemmed back to a beating he sustained by a three-man gang when he was 16, which left him hospitalised and dependant on painkillers.

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