Northern Ireland news

Armed robber to serve extra time on fresh charges

Laganside Court in Belfast

A 33-year-old man already serving a five-year sentence for attempted robbery was given a further three years today, for a second robbery bid, and possessing an imitation gun.

Judge Stephen Fowler QC told Robert Andrews that raids on local premises had a wide impact on the community, involving as they did, vulnerable staff who required the protection of the courts.

The Belfast Crown Court judge also told him that while his sentence will run concurrently with his previous jail term, his release date from prison in September next year, would now have to be put back.

Andrews, with an address c/o of Magilligan Prison, who pleaded guilty to the attempted robbery of a north Belfast fast food outlet on February 5 last year, and possessing an imitation firearm to cause fear of violence, has a release date in 2023.

Prosecution lawyer David Russell had previously told the court, at the time of the failed hold-up at the KFC, Andrews was already on bail for an earlier robbery attempt. Andrews, he added, was one of two men, armed with what appeared to be a handgun and a hatchet, captured on CCTV demanding monies from staff.

Mr Russell said that Andrews, brandishing the imitation gun, and his accomplice had shouted "open the till and give us the money" to staff, who, although they ran to the back of the fast-food outlet, were still left "shocked and shaken" by their ordeal.

Counsel added that as a result the pair were unable to open the till and were forced to flee empty handed when confronted by the chef who chased them away. Andrews was arrested a short time later by police in the nearby York Road rail station, and while he denied involvement his later guilty pleas were "helpful to the prosecution".

Defence counsel Denis Boyd said a remorseful Andrews wanted to apologise to staff for what must have been "very frightening" experience for them. And that he felt ashamed for his involvement in the stupid unsophiscated offence "hatched in drink a short time before" by the pair, needing money for drugs.

Mr Boyd said although Andrews has more than 50 previous convictions, they were largely a magistrates' court record. He added that Andrews had previously managed to kick his heroin abuse, only to turn to cocaine, but is determined to beat that habit also, and was engaging in rehabilitation programmes in prison.

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