Two men who admitted attempting to rob a driver and his young assistant making a delivery of sweets and cigarettes to a store in north Belfast have been handed five-year sentences.
Belfast Crown Court heard the two delivery men were both injured in the incident, during which one of the would-be robbers shouted “LVF ... give me the keys, give me the cigarettes”.
Appearing in court on Tuesday were 23-year-old Jason Francis McMillan from St Peter’s Place in Belfast, and Andrew Jason Strain, 23, from Beechfield Drive in Donaghadee, Co Down. Another man involved in the robbery is due to appear in court at a later date.
Both men – who admitted a charge of attempting to rob a quantity of cigarettes and lorry keys as part of a joint enterprise, as well as allowing themselves to be carried in a stolen vehicle – will spend two and a half years in prison with the remainder of the sentence spent on supervised licence when they are released from custody.
Crown prosecutor Rosemary Walsh said the delivery vehicle was targeted when it was parked outside a Costcutters store on the Woodvale Road at around 10.15am on August 8, 2012. The store was due to receive a delivery of sweets, juice and cigarettes, when the driver noticed three men approaching the lorry.
One of the men shouted LVF and demanded the keys and cigarettes be handed over before the driver was attacked and brought to the ground. When his assistant, who had been at the back of the lorry, heard the demand for cigarettes, he went to see what was happening and was also attacked.
Ms Walsh said the assistant later said that while he was on the ground, he was kicked in the head and “curled up in a ball to protect himself”. A witness said he saw both delivery men lying on the ground with their hands over their heads.
The court heard that after it became apparant that police had been notified of the incident, the three-man gang fled the scene.
One of the men ran into a nearby garden but was told to leave by the resident, who described him as “looking panicked”. Items of clothing were discarded in a garden and also on waste ground at Lanark Way.
The men then made their escape in a silver Volvo that had been stolen from outside a shop on the Springfield Road shortly before the delivery van was targeted.
At 10.30am, the stolen Volvo was observed in New Barnsley Park. McMillan was behind the wheel while two other men, one of whom was Strain, were standing outside the vehicle.
Ms Walsh told the court that both McMillan and Strain were linked to the discarded items of clothes via DNA evidence.
During police questioning Strain at one stage said Daffy Duck had been involved in the attempted robbery. He initially denied involvement but subsequently pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and allowing himself to be carried in a stolen vehicle.
Co-accused McMillan also pleaded guilty to the same two charges as Strain, as well as driving whilst disqualified and without insurance.
The prosecutor revealed that both the delivery driver and his assistant sustained injuries, and that “this robbery has had an effect on both individuals”.
Ms Walsh also revealed that both Strain and McMillan have criminal records.
A barrister acting for Mr McMillan said the incident was “part of a cycle of offending” that his client was involved in at the time. He also pointed out that nothing was actually taken in the robbery and that no weapon was used.
Strain’s defence barrister said his client “hasn’t offended since last August”, that he “fully acknowledged his role” and that he has expressed remorse for his actions.
Judge Philpott said that while she accepted there was no weapon used, the three-man gang were “handy with their fists” and that the delivery driver and his assistant “were simply trying to make a living ... something that you two have never ever done in a really legitimate way”.