Crowbar gang in cigarettes raid on shop

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THREE masked robbers smashed their way into a shop to steal thousands of pounds of cigarettes.

Paul Hunter, who is 42 today, Ashton Palmer and a third man targeted Lambton village shop in Washington, in the early hours of June 18, armed with crowbars.

Police were called to the shop and saw one man sitting on a dirt bike beside the property, who revved the engine before speeding off.

Metal shutters had been forced open and a glass panel had been smashed. Officers shouted into the shop at which point Hunter, of Baxton Road, Sunderland, jumped through the window holding a crowbar and was Tasered and arrested.

Palmer, of Hillburn Road, Sunderland, was sprayed in the face with CS gas before also being arrested. The third man escaped.

A large duvet cover was found inside the shop containing between £1,000 and £2,000-worth of cigarettes.

A total of £620 of damage was also done to the shop.

Both men admitted one charge of burglary.

Neil Pallister, prosecuting, told the court Hunter had 21 previous convictions for 41 offences, including six burglaries, in the late 80s and early 90s.

The court also heard Palmer had 41 convictions for 120 offences, including multiple burglaries of shops containing tobacco, going up to 2008.

Defending Hunter, Glenn Gatland said: “Since his offending in the late 90s, he has been dedicated to his family and stopped engaging in criminal activity.

“He was dedicated to work and had stopped drinking and taking cannabis.

“His work stopped on the 7th June, and he and his wife then fell out about money because there was no money coming into the house.

“They had a stupid argument and he started drinking with fellows and started taking cannabis. This offence then occurred on the 18th June after he had lost his job.

“Since then, he has been back with his wife. His job is still open to him.”

In Palmer’s defence, Nigel Barnes said he had lost his mother last May, had experienced the breakdown of a marriage which involved four children, and had serious health consequences as a result.

Sentencing the pair, Judge John Milford said: “You are both middle-aged men with a bad record and have a number of convictions for offences committed against similar victims.

“To your credit, Hunter, you have managed to keep out of trouble for a considerable length of time.”

Hunter was sentenced to 16 months in jail, suspended for two years.

He will have to pay £160 compensation to the victim, a £60 victim surcharge, complete 150 hours of unpaid work and was also made subject to a 12-month supervision order.

Palmer was sentenced to 20 months in jail and was ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge.