Pharmacy knife robber loses appeal

gavel and scales of justice

A man who robbed a Kingston pharmacy with a knife has had his appeal for a reduced sentence dismissed.

Stewart Bartle was sentenced in April 2016 to three years’ imprisonment on a charge of armed robbery, with a non-parole period of 18 months, but appealed the sentence.

The Tasmanian Court of Criminal Appeal heard that at 7.02pm on Friday, 30 October 2015, Bartle went to the pharmacy, in the Kingston Shopping Centre, to obtain pain medication via armed robbery.

“The appellant told police that, for some time, he had been suffering from back pain, and the pain made his work as a deckhand difficult,” the Court heard.

“He was not able to access prescription pain relief because he had previously been on the methadone program. Accordingly, he was in the habit of buying morphine illicitly. He had developed an addiction to morphine.

“On the day of the crime, he had been engaged by his employer to work the next day. He was told that, somewhat unusually, he would be working for two divers. This meant that his work would be more intense than usual.”

Faced with the prospect of no morphine and no money to buy some illicitly, Bartle decided to get the drugs by robbing a pharmacy.

“Shortly before 7pm, he drove, in his own vehicle, to the pharmacy at the local shopping centre. He took with him a green plastic shopping bag, a balaclava, a knife with a serrated edge blade about 15cm long, and a pair of gloves,” the court heard. “He was wearing two hooded jackets.

“He entered the store carrying the knife, the gloves and the bag. He was wearing the balaclava on his head, and as he went into the store, he pulled the balaclava down over his face, so that it acted as a disguise.

“He walked directly to the dispensary area holding the knife in his right hand and the green bag in his left hand.

“He exposed the knife to the 25 year old female pharmacist  and said to her, calmly and quietly, that he wanted her to put ‘all your oxy’s, MS Contin and methadone’ in the bag.”

When the pharmacist said she did not want any trouble, Bartle responed, ‘Fill it up quick and there won’t be any trouble’.

“The pharmacist  then went to the safe at the back of the dispensary area. The appellant followed her, still holding the knife.

“He handed her the bag and she started to place drugs from the safe into it. As she was doing so, the appellant was saying to her, ‘Quick, quick, quick’.

“After a few seconds, the appellant told her that that was enough and pulled the bag from her hands. He then leaned across her, and she leaned back with her hands in the air, and he took more drugs from the safe. He then immediately left the pharmacy, got into his car and drove away.”

Bartle pled guilty to the offence early on after his arrest, expressing remorse and writing a letter of apology to the pharmacy staff.

The pharmacist, meanwhile, experienced an ongoing emotional impact and had been unable to work to the same extent as before the crime, which she stated in a victim impact statement.

The Court of Appeals upheld Bartle’s sentence.

“Notwithstanding the mitigating circumstances, the crime was a serious example of armed robbery and deserved significant punishment,” the Court noted.

“Armed robbery is a crime against people, notwithstanding that it also involves property.

“There is a need for the courts to denounce such conduct in the strongest terms. In this case, the use of the knife, the actual impact on the staff member, and the other serious aspects of the crime referred to above, constituted particularly cogent sentencing considerations.”

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