Man with 54 convictions jailed over store robbery

A 35-year old man who took part in an early morning armed robbery at a convenience store in south Belfast was handed a five-year prison sentence on Friday.

Friday, 6th July 2018, 5:43 pm
Updated Monday, 16th July 2018, 5:14 pm
Pacemaker Press 22/5/2013 Laganside Court Building in Belfast City centre Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Belfast Crown Court heard Desmond McGeown was linked to the scene by a knife he dropped during the incident, which occurred at the Today’s Express store on the Ormeau Road last April.

During the robbery, a second man not before the courts brandished a hammer which was used to threaten the “terrified” female shop assistant, and to smash both a CCTV monitor and the employee’s phone.

From St John’s Close in Belfast, McGeown was handed a five-year sentence by Judge Gordon Kerr QC, who also activated a 12-month suspended sentence which the defendant breached when he committed the armed robbery.

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Judge Kerr told the father of one the totality of his sentence was six years - half of which will be served in prison, with the remaining three years spend on licence when he is released from jail.

Just over £630 was taken in the robbery, along with cigarettes and tobacco valued at £2,040.

A prosecuting barrister said that around 6.35am on April 3 last year, a lone female employee was working in the store when two masked men entered the premises. The staff member was threatened, and while she was taken into a store room by McGeown’s accomplice, McGeown went behind the counter and filled a black holdall with cigarettes and tobacco.

The prosecutor said that at some point during this, a knife that McGeown had fell onto the floor. This item was the subject of subsequent forensic testing, and McGeown’s DNA was present.

Telling the court the shop assistant’s fear was “obvious” by viewing the store’s CCTV, the prosecutor said the safe was emptied and the CCTV monitor in the store room was smashed.

Other CCTV was viewed, and when McGeown was arrested later that day, a distinctive Adidas top worn by the robber was found at his address, along with items linked to the robbery.

During interview, McGeown refused to answer questions, and “at times was abusive towards police”.

A defence barrister said his client acknowledged this was a very serious offence, and has expressed shame for his involvement.

Revealing McGeown has issued a “full and unreserved apology for his behaviour and his actions” both to the court and to the shop assistant, the barrister said McGeown was “profoundly shameful” about his involvement.

The defence barrister said McGeown’s childhood was “stressful, and also spoke of his client’s mental health and addiction issues.

He also pointed out McGeown had “limited interaction” with the woman, as while his accomplice was with her, McGeown was filling a bag with cigarettes in a “frantic manner.”

Jailing the father of one, Judge Kerr noted McGeown’s 54 previous convictions but said he accepted the defendant has displayed insight into his behaviour and the impact it has had on the “terrified” shop assistant.