Jail looms for young robbers, judge warns

A youth offender will serve an adult jail sentence for two armed raids on the Woolston Night and Day store, after a judge sent a public message about the repeated robberies.

Judge Stephen O’Driscoll told 16-year-old Liam Burrowes: “Aggravated robberies are not games. The stakes are high.”

He jailed the teen for three years, which will be served in the Youth Wing at Christchurch Men’s Prison, and told him: “I hope the sentence I have imposed will not just deter you, but will deter others in the community who may be contemplating this perceived game.

“In appropriate cases, where offenders are caught and brought to court their youth alone will not prevent sentences of imprisonment being imposed.”

Aggravated robberies – robberies involving weapons or multiple offenders – carried a maximum 14-year jail term, and had the potential for serious consequences for vulnerable shopkeepers, said the judge.

When Burrowes was interviewed for his pre-sentence report, he told the probation officer he was surprised to find himself being sent to the District Court for sentencing. He had thought that if he was caught he would get the maximum youth justice sentence – supervision with residence.

But Judge O’Driscoll decided the offending was serious enough for an adult sentence to be imposed, particularly considering his record and his recent release from a Youth Court sentence when the first robbery took place on December 3.

The first time, Burrowes went into the store at 4am, with two co-offenders who had hammers. Burrowes carried a sports bag for the loot, and a small axe. Cash, cigarettes, and tobacco products worth $1565 were taken, and the shop assistant was threatened with a weapon. The robbers wore disguises.

Burrowes went back on December 22 at 4.50am, again armed with an axe and wearing gloves, bandanna, and hooded sweatshirt. Cash and tobacco products were again targeted.

The same shop assistant was robbed both times. He has now been robbed four times, and the Woolston Night and Day has been robbed eight or nine times in total.

The shop worker says he is having trouble sleeping and does not feel safe. He has not worked a night shift since Burrowes’ last robbery. “He has not told his family about what has occurred because he is concerned his family may want him to leave New Zealand and go back to India,” said the judge.

Judge O’Driscoll said he was not sure why that store was targeted so much. It may have been seen as a “soft” target, where the shopkeepers did not resist, or simply an easy way of getting cash and cigarettes.

The judge reviewed other cases where young people had been sentenced for dairy robberies including some at the Woolston shop. They sentences had ranged from Youth Court sentences of supervision with residence – effectively youth prison – to supervision with activity, and one term of two years seven months jail.

But he said Burrowes was young but his offending had not involved typical youth behaviour. There had been multiple offenders, disguises, weapons, and premeditation. In his case there were two robberies.

He said he needed to impose a sentence for personal and general deterrence. Offenders who committed aggravated robberies could not expect that their youth would mean they would get supervision with residence sentences. “This is serious offending.”

The automatic name suppression in Youth Court was lifted once Burrowes was transferred to the District Court.

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