Hooded assailant Ricky-Lee Garnish, 34, had hoped to avoid being caged for his menacing ambush after claiming he was put up to the job by Albanian drug dealers ‘Tony’ and ‘Bobby’ to pay off a £10,000 debt.
But judge Roger Hetherington said Garnish had served up a dish of lies at a special hearing at Portsmouth Crown Court to assess the validity of his mitigation after the defendant had already pleaded guilty to robbing a Betfred shop in Commercial Road, Portsmouth, on December 1.
Garnish had spun a yarn to the court saying he was forced to carry out the robbery after the ‘Albanian heavies’ threatened to kill his 61-year-old mum and five-year-old daughter if he did not pay back a debt for his cocaine addiction.
During cross-examination, prosecutor Simon Foster questioned Garnish’s account. ‘Did the Albanians show you a weapon?’ he asked. ‘Did they tell you how they would remove your mum and daughter? You could have gone to the police.’
A twitchy Garnish replied: ‘It goes way beyond this. They (his mum and daughter) would have gone missing way before the police got there.’
Mr Foster fired back: ‘You’re not just making this all up to mitigate your sentence, aren’t you?’
Garnish, of Charles Street, Portsmouth, replied: ‘No, this is the truth.’
The court heard how Garnish had gone to the betting shop in the evening wearing a hoodie before threatening a man who was working on his own.
‘You walked over to the counter and told him to put his hands up before grabbing his wrist,’ said the judge. ‘It looked like you were holding something in your pocket, perhaps a knife, though there is no evidence of this.’
‘You then said: “Give me everything”. The shop worker felt he had no alternative and reached for the safe before you grabbed his wrist again.’
Garnish told the employee that he didn’t want to hurt him and held open a bag before being given £4,000 cash.
Another bizarre exchange then took place. ‘As the shop worker let him out Garnish kissed the top of the man’s hand and and said “thank you” before making off,’ judge Hetherington said.
The judge, summing up, rejected Garnish’s account – including how his mum paid off the remaining £6,000 owed.
‘Curiously, the defendant cannot remember whose idea it was to carry out the robbery,’ judge Hetherington said.
He went on to question why there was no ‘prior negotiations’ with the dealers over the debt.
The judge concluded: ‘It may be true that you were under some pressure from those you owed money to to pay off the debt or reduce the debt but this is fairly normal in a situation where drug dealers are supplying drugs.
‘I’m not satisfied this robbery was made under immediate threat from dealers who made threats about the safety of your mum and daughter. There is no evidence you were frogmarched to the shop by them.
‘I think you were someone in a fix who was desperate to get money.’
Defence barrister Howard-Barrington Clark made a last-ditch attempt to reduce the sentence to 24 months – therefore allowing it to be suspended – after interrupting judge Hetherington’s summing up.
But his plea fell on deaf ears as the judge stuck to his guns and dumped Garnish in jail for 32 months after branding it a ‘serious robbery’.