Sentence reduced after claw hammer robbery

A man has had his sentence reduced for a number of crimes including the robbery of a pharmacy in which he stole, then later tried to sell, Valium

Travers Hayward was sentenced to 10 years and six months’ imprisonment for nine counts on the same indictment, in August 2019.

A hearing at the Court of Appeal, Western Australia, examined whether a sentence of four years and six months’ imprisonment imposed for armed robbery of a pharmacy was manifestly excessive – and whether individual sentences should be concurrent, or consecutive.

The appeals court noted that among the offences Mr Hayward committed on 4 January 2019, he went to a pharmacy, produced a claw hammer and demanded Valium, which he later tried to sell to a Red Rooster staff member.

It heard that at about 11am on the day in question, he assaulted his former partner with a small claw hammer, hitting her several times in the head and causing multiple bruises, a 2cm laceration to her head, and cuts to her arms.

After this, he went to a nearby shopping centre and stole two shoes (each of which belonged to a different pair) from a display box outside a shoe store. Next he went to Woolworths and stole underwear, socks, a reusable shopping bag and a can of Coca Cola.

Next, he went to the shopping centre’s TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacy, and approached the counter.

Here, he inquired about prescription medicines including Serepax and Valium.

“A pharmacy assistant consulted the pharmacist,” the Court heard. “Together, the assistant and the pharmacist looked in the cabinets behind the counter for the medication.

“The appellant then walked behind the counter and stood behind the victims.

“When the victims turned around, he raised the hammer to above his shoulder height and demanded Valium.

“In response, the pharmacist opened a drawer and the appellant took six boxes of Valium from it.

“A third staff member attempted to distract the appellant, but he pushed past her and said, ‘You’re not going any f*****g where”.

It was this robbery of the TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacy on which the appeal hinged.

After Mr Hayward took the Valium and still holding the hammer, he was approached by a shopping centre security officer and the Woolworths manager, who followed him into the car park. He held up the hammer in the direction of the officer and the manager and told them to leave him alone or he would “hurt” them.

After this, he went to a Red Rooster store and ordered and paid for chips.

“While staff were preparing his order, the appellant asked a staff member whether he could borrow some money,” the Court heard.

“The staff member told the appellant that he could not assist him with this request. The appellant then demanded $200, saying, ‘I’ve got a fully‑loaded pistol in my bag’.”

He then offered to sell the staff member the Valium he had stolen from the pharmacy for $50, but the staff member declined, at which point Mr Hayward again produced the hammer and left the store, telling the staff member to “Have a good day”.

He was arrested soon after and a search showed that he was carrying the hammer, the reusable bag from Woolworths and some of the Valium he had taken from the pharmacy.

The Court also heard that the 44-year-old Mr Hayward had a long history of problem use of alcohol and drugs, and was a long-standing user of heroin. He also had an extensive criminal history as an adult.

Mr Hayward had submitted to the Court that the sentence for the armed robbery of the pharmacy, at four years and six months’ imprisonment, was manifestly excessive in the light of his guilty plea, disadvantaged background, mental health, and a consideration of comparable cases.

“Further, it was said that the offence was unsophisticated and occurred on the spur of the moment.”

In examining this claim, the Court noted that “While the offence might be said to be unsophisticated, in the sense that the appellant made no attempt to disguise himself nor did the offence appear well planned, we would not go so far as to say that it occurred on the spur of the moment given that the appellant had already stolen items from two stores… and had the claw hammer in his possession”.

“Regardless of whether the offence may be characterised as unsophisticated or committed on the spur of the moment, it was clearly a relatively serious example of its type.

“The appellant was armed with, and brandished, a potentially dangerous weapon, being the hammer.

“He was intoxicated on drugs and his actions were erratic. Such circumstances gave rise to the potential for unintended, and possibly serious, consequences.

“Although the appellant did not actually use the hammer, he pushed one of the pharmacist’s assistants after obtaining the Valium.

“As the respondent stated in its written submissions, pharmacies provide a valuable public service, and are vulnerable targets to the kind of offending engaged in by the appellant because they store addictive medications.

“Pharmacies and those who work in them require protection. Thus, general deterrence will, ordinarily, be an important sentencing consideration.”

It noted that the maximum penalty for such an offence was life imprisonment, and that Mr Hayward did not have mitigating circumstances of youth or previous good character; instead, he had an extensive criminal history including offences involving violence.

After comparing similar cases, the Court was not persuaded that the sentence for robbing the pharmacy was unreasonable or unjust.

However a second ground of appeal regarding accumulation of the sentences for the offences was accepted.

“The real question is whether the total effective sentence is unreasonable or plainly unjust,” the Court noted.

It found that the accumulation of sentencing for the attack on the former partner with that for the armed robbery of the TerryWhite Chemmart would have resulted in a total effective sentence of eight years and six months’ imprisonment (instead of the 10 years and six months’ imprisonment imposed) and that this would have appropriate achieved sentencing aims.

However further accumulating the sentence imposed on the attempted robbery of the Red Rooster was problematic, it said.

“The total effective sentence imposed by his Honour was, in our respectful view, more than what was required to achieve these stated sentencing aims.”

Mr Hayward’s sentences were set aside and he was resentenced to a total of eight years and six months’ imprisonment.

This was backdated to 4 January 2019.

Mr Hayward will be eligible to be considered for release on parole after serving six years and six months in custody calculated from 4 January 2019.

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