Published Monday, 21 January 2013
The two men were jailed for a total of 12 years. (© UTV)
The six-year jail terms were handed down to 39-year-old Desmond Hamill and 48-year-old Austin Creggan at Belfast Crown Court on Monday.
Judge David McFarland said he accepted the pair were being used by other, more sinister elements but told them: "You may wish to reflect, while you are in prison, why you are in prison and the others who used you, are not."
Describing the men as "willing volunteers" in the "fund raising operation for other parties or another party," the judge continued: "It is important that others desist when requested to carry out operations on behalf of other more sinister elements because ultimately, it is you who receives the punishment, not them."
Earlier he heard how Creggan and Hamill, who appeared in the dock in check shirts with full beards, were arrested moments after they had robbed two filling station staff members as they closed up for the night on 14 January this year.
Fully masked up, dressed in military clothing and brandishing guns, the pair ran at the two staff members demanding they "hand over the money or I'll shoot you" and a lawyer recounted how, after grabbing a money bag containing £5,520 the robbers ran off.
Unbeknownst to them however, the police had mounted a surveillance operation on the garage at the Ballygawley Road and despite a "short stand-off" between the PSNI and robbers, the pair were arrested.
Although during interview both Creggan, from Park View in Pomeroy, Dungannon, and Hamill, from the Springview Estate, also Dungannon, refused to answer police questions, they both later pleaded guilty to offences of robbery and possessing the real and imitation guns with intent to commit robbery.
A prosecution lawyer said the weapons were both recovered and while neither had any ammunition, one was real but the other an imitation blank firing pistol.
Defence lawyers for the pair said while it did not take away from the alarm or fear caused to the members of staff, the robbery itself descended into an "almost farcical" situation as, when they tried to run off, they were "banging into each other".
Jailing the pair however and ordering they serve half their sentences in jail and half on licence, Judge McFarland said while it was "slightly comical" from looking at the papers in the case, "if I were to put myself in the position of the staff it is a completely different situation."