Northern Ireland

Man is jailed for eight years after robbing chemist

A man who robbed a chemist for the second time in seven years has been jailed for eight years.

Judge Patrick Lynch critcisised Mark Toal's "appalling" record which included 12 robberies, six of which had been committed in a two-day crime spree in 2004.

It was during this spree that Toal, 27, first robbed the Medicare pharmacy at Carrick Hill in north Belfast.

Belfast Crown Court heard he did it again on 6 July last year.

Prosecuting lawyer David Russell told the court that just before 9:00 GMT on that day, Toal marched into the shop with his hood pulled up and a pair of tights disguising his face, as he brandished a bread knife at the chemist, demanding that he hand over cash, diazepam and temazepam.

The court heard that as he left the shop with a quantity of tablets and £40, Toal threatened the staff but was arrested by police a short distance away.

Toal, of no fixed abode, admitted the robbery during police interviews and later pleaded guilty to offences of robbery, possessing a weapon, criminal damage, attempted criminal damage and assaulting police.

Defence lawyer Neil Fox said Toal's life had been ravaged by the abuse of drink and drugs and that it was unpaid debts accrued through unscrupulous drug dealers that had led him to commit the robbery.