‘Open the safe, he has a gun.’


legal law case justice crime

A man’s appeal has been knocked back against his sentence for robbing a pharmacy three minutes away from his home

The NSW Court of Criminal Appeal granted NSW man Tony Karacic’s leave to appeal his sentence for the robbery of the pharmacy, which he said he had limited memory of doing.

Mr Karacic’s appeal was filed out of time by a matter of days; while he had not provided an explanation as to why, the Court noted that given he represented himself, “it is not difficult to conclude that the lack of any legal assistance to him was a material factor in the delay”.

Leave to appeal was granted, and Mr Karacic said there were several grounds for appealing his aggregate sentence of six years and three months, with a non-parole period of four years and two months.

He said that the trial judge had erred on backdating his sentence to the time he entered custody, which meant he effectively did four years and 10 months; that the trial judge erred on parity to other crimes of similar nature; that the trial judge had erred when he said Mr Karacic’s prospects of rehabilitation were poor; that the judge erred when taking into account the sentence for a previous armed robbery; and that the sentence was manifestly excessive.

There was no dispute about the facts of the offences: in February 2016, the offender had gone to a nearby pharmacy in a southern Sydney suburb with his face concealed, and confronted a 20-year-old staff member.

When she raised her hands, he told her, “No, safe”.

As the employee could not access the safe, she went to the dispensary to get the pharmacist, and said, “Open the safe, he has a gun”.

Mr Karacic had followed her by a “circuitous” route, the Court noted, taking money from the cash register as he passed it.

When the pharmacist opened the safe, the man took a quantity of drugs from it, and put them into a bag he already had.

All this was captured on closed circuit security footage.

“The applicant lived with his parents at an address situated just three minutes travel from the pharmacy,” the Court noted.

“A neighbouring property to his parents’ home was fitted with security cameras, and footage recorded on the day of the robbery showed the applicant leaving his address just before the robbery, and returning there shortly after it.

“When the applicant’s home was searched by police a quantity of drugs not readily available for purchase over the counter, and consistent with those stolen from the pharmacy, were found.

“Five days after the robberies, on 11 February 2016, the applicant was stopped by police as he was driving a car. The car was searched and a shortened loaded firearm was found in the front passenger footwell, just under the seat.

“This was the firearm used in the robberies at the pharmacy, although the trial judge was satisfied that, even if loaded during the robberies, it had been rendered safe at that time.”

The Court heard Mr Karacic had a previous criminal history involving driving offences and a previous armed robbery, and a history of drug use which began at the age of 19. All the previous offences were related to his drug use, he said.

After beginning to smoke marijuana at 19, he soon began to use amphetamines and ecstasy recreationally, and at 22 began to use heroin, at first by smoking it, then by injection.

He abstained from heroin when he was imprisoned for his first robbery conviction in 2003 and for a year after release, but when his brother died from a heroin overdose, he began to self-medicate with heroin and benzodiazepines.

When the Parole Service detected this, he was prescribed methadone and was able to reduce his heroin use, but began using crystal methamphetamine.

During the pharmacy robbery, “he had been under the influence of various illicit drugs, including Xanax and Valium at high doses, ‘ice’ (or crystal methylamphetamine), and drugs prescribed to him, being Mogadon and methadone,” the Court noted.

He said he would not have committed the offences if he had not been intoxicated by drugs.

He also said he had limited memory of the incident.

His sentencing judge had described it as a “terrifying ordeal” for the pharmacist and pharmacy assistant.

The Appeals Court found that Mr Karacic’s grounds for appeal were not made out.

His appeal was dismissed.

Readers who are distressed can contact the Pharmacists’ Support Service on 1300 244 910.

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