Northern Ireland

Pair jailed for Belfast pharmacy armed robberies

Two Belfast men have been jailed for robbing pharmacies in the city at gunpoint last year.

Glen Beattie, 21, from Forthriver Green was jailed for eight years for robbing shops on Ballygomartin Road in June and Enfield Street in July.

His accomplice in the second robbery, Andrew Peden, 24, of Glencairn Way, was jailed for ten years.

The judge at Belfast Crown Court said he was passing sentences to punish them and "act as a deterrent" to others.

The court heard how Beattie and two other men robbed the Ballygomartin Road premises on 17 June, threatening staff with imitation handguns and demanding that the till and prescription drugs be handed over.

A prosecution lawyer said that during the robbery, two female members of staff were ordered to lie on the ground and a gun was "pointed directly into the face of the manager".

Beattie and his accomplices made off with a substantial quantity of prescription drugs and £100 in cash.

The lawyer told the court that two weeks later on 1 July, the two defendants went into a pharmacy on Enfield Street in the Woodvale area of north Belfast.

He said that Beattie was armed with a crossbow while Peden had a silver handgun.

The pair threatened staff and demanded cash and drugs.

They fled with a large amount of drugs and £115 but were arrested nearby by police.

Beattie later pleaded guilty to two counts of robbery, possessing a gun to cause fear, and possessing a crossbow.

Peden claimed at trial that he only admitted the offences as he was under pressure from local paramilitaries to do so.

However, a jury convicted him of robbery, possessing a gun to cause fear and possessing the crossbow.

Jailing the pair, Judge Lockie said the offences were aggravated by the use of weapons and masks, the targeting of vulnerable small businesses and the pair's criminal records.