Norwich shopkeeper hits out at robber’s three year sentence

Earlham Shopper owner, Nigel Dowdney, after the robbery at his shop at Earlham West Centre. Picture: Denise Bradley Earlham Shopper owner, Nigel Dowdney, after the robbery at his shop at Earlham West Centre. Picture: Denise Bradley

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
8:36 AM

A flurry of recent robberies has left staff and owners of Norfolk’s network of small shops feeling “vulnerable”, a retail chief warned.

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Darryl Hindley was sentenced to three years in prison for robbery. Photo: Norfolk ConstabularyDarryl Hindley was sentenced to three years in prison for robbery. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary

The warning came as Darryl Hindley was given a three year custodial sentence after threatening female members of staff with a weapon during a raid at the Earlham Shopper in West Earlham, near Norwich, on January 9.

It was the latest of a clutch of shop robberies that have heightened fear across the city and county, among staff who are “uniquely exposed to the public”.

After the sentencing at Norwich Crown Court, shop owner Nigel Dowdney, the East Anglian spokesman for the Association of Convenience Stores, said the three-year term was “unbelievable”.

Hindley, 20, of no fixed abode but who had lived in Beecheno Road, Norwich, previously admitted the robbery. He was also dealt with for a burglary at the UEA in 2008, which he admitted, and asked for six other matters to be taken into consideration.

Other shop incidents

The owners and staff of small shops are “uniquely exposed to the public” according to an industry body.

Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Assocation (Bira), said: “It’s a particular problem for smaller retailers because, very often, they are working alone.

“The average small shop employs five people, but at any one time there will only be one or two people in the shop – particularly the type of shops which have long opening hours.

“Ultimately they can’t put enough security around themselves without surrounding themselves with iron bars or glass.” He added: “Retail staff and their employers are uniquely exposed to the public in every respect, including criminals.”

In Norwich, several small shops have been targeted by robbers over the past couple of years.

In April 2012 an armed robber escaped on a bicycle after threatening Norwich shopkeeper Abdul Basit with a knife and stealing hundreds of pounds at Angel Stores, in Angel Road.

In July 2013, a shop worker at Arts Desire in St Benedict’s described her ordeal after being threatened with a screwdriver in a robbery.

In February, Huseyin Kaplan, owner of Woodside News in Thorpe St Andrew, told how he used a bin as a shield to protect his daughter when a hooded man burst into his off-licence brandishing a foot-long knife.

In March, a man was jailed for seven years after pleading guilty to robbing a newsagent at knifepoint in Witard Road, Norwich, last August.

Mr Dowdney, 60, said: “I don’t think a three year sentence is really very much punishment for what he did to me or my staff.

“We do everything we can to train our staff in how to behave if something like this happens, have extensive CCTV and everything but we’re open very early in the morning and late at night.

“We do as much as we can to reduce the dangers but, unfortunately, there is a vulnerability there and I think it’s the duty of the courts to reflect that someone has taken advantage of a vulnerability which is very hard to overcome.

“He stole two bottles of vodka and 40 cigarettes. The threat of wielding a weapon in front of vulnerable girls for such a small value amount is... I find it unbelievable, to be quite honest, that he’s got away with it so lightly.”

Mr Dowdney said the offence, which happened 10 days before a second, separate robbery at the same store, was an example of the dangers many shop owners and their staff faced.

Sentencing Hindley, Judge Katharine Moore that the two assistants were so frightened by the robbery, during which Hindley waved the metal implement around, that they had been left “scared at home and scared at work”.

Stephen Spence, prosecuting, said Hindley, who has 33 offences on his record, entered the shop shortly after it had been opened up and went into a staff area behind the till where cigarettes and alcohol were kept.

Mr Spence said the assistants saw Hindley with a weapon in his hand and were scared for their safety.

Hindley was recognised on CCTV by a police officer and arrested.

Jonathan Goodman, mitigating, said Hindley, “from about 13” had been a real “nuisance” to “the community, his family and himself” which was borne out by his record.

Mr Goodman said: “Engaging in drink and dabbling in recreational drugs, quite frankly, being feral had been Darryl Hindley’s life.”

But Mr Goodman said the court and defendant’s family must hope “this is the end of the line for Darryl Hindley’s criminal career”.

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