Masked shop raider jailed for sword robbery bid

Benjamin Smith. (S)
Benjamin Smith. (S)

A masked man who waved a sword in front of a terrified Barrowford shopkeeper during an attempted armed robbery in January has been jailed.

Benjamin Smith (23), of Hall Street, Colne, was sent to prison for four years and nine months at Burnley Crown Court on Friday for that offence and another of affray causing actual bodily harm in December 2013.

He had pleaded guilty to both.

During the hearing Recorder Michael Hayton QC described Smith as the “starkest example of the evil of drugs” as medical evidence pointed to him being in a drug-induced psychosis when both incidents took place.

The court heard how Smith had entered McGuire’s Off-licence in Gisburn Road, Barrowford, at 7-15pm on January 15th with the 2ft long blade demanding money from shop owner Rahena Iqbal.

Mrs Iqbal recognised him as a regular, the court heard, and as Smith swung the sword twice at her demanding she “open the till and give me the money” into a bag he dangled in front of her, the shopkeeper picked up a kettle of boiling water to defend herself.

Stephen Parker (prosecuting) told the hearing that Mrs Iqbal had told Smith “I know you, I know you”, during the ordeal, despite Smith’s face being partially covered with a scarf.

The court was told the ordeal ended as a customer entered the store startling Smith who fled the scene.

Smith was arrested six days later after Mrs Iqbal found CCTV footage of him in the store and handed it over to police.

Burnley Crown Court heard that this offence had occurred while Smith had been on bail for the affray from December 15th.

On that occasion, Mr Parker told the court Smith had entered the BP Garage in Netherfield Road, Nelson, in an agitated state and tried to lock the shop door shouting “help me, help me”.

Smith locked himself into the staff office and when the police were called, forcing the door open, he shouted “they are going to kill me”.

Mr Parker told the court that Smith had lashed out and had bit an officer’s finger during his arrest.

Once at the police station he sat in the car park the court heard, and when police tried to get him into the station, he bit another officer’s finger causing it to bleed.

Smith was taken to hospital as officers were concerned about mental state before being charged and bailed.

Mark Stuart (defending) said Smith was “disturbed” by his behaviour and was “deeply troubled” as to why he couldn’t explain why he had done it.

Mr Stuart told the court that Smith had no memory of the second incident and limited memory of the first.

Smith had managed to rid himself of an addiction to alcohol and in a two-year period had built up a successful business, Mr Stuart told the court.

But Mr Stuart said that “unfortunately” Smith had developed an addiction to cocaine and had claimed to a probation officer to be spending a six-figure sum on the Class A drug every year.

Mr Stuart said Smith, a father of three, was “so appalled” with his behaviour he had not taken drugs while in custody and his partner was standing by him.

Sentencing, Recorder Hayton QC said: “You should be shocked by just how out of control as you were.”

Recorder Hayton QC added that during the first offence describing Smith’s behaviour to a wild animal would be “a disservice to wild animals”.

The Recorder described the second incident as “far more troubling” and said Mrs Iqbal “must have been terrified for her life”.