Brave assistant chased robbers out of Whitworth shop with a stick - but then they came back

A man who robbed a convenience store, along with two accomplices, has been spared jail.

The brave shop assistant, who was working at the Premier convenience store in Whitworth, chased the men out of his shop with a stick when they raided the shop at 9:30am on December 12, 2020. But the men returned, armed with tools they had taken from a car parked nearby.

Katy Appleton, prosecuting, told Preston Crown Court yesterday (May 28) one of the men jumped on the counter and James Rush jumped on the shop assistant's back. During the robbery, the shop assistant was struck with a stick and suffered injuries to his back. One of the men also threw a metal wrench at him, Preston Crown Court heard.

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Some of the blows "took his breath away" and he was left with a cut to his right ear and aching all over his body, he said.

In a victim impact statement, the shop assistant, who has since moved back to Pakistan, said: "The incident has left me feeling extremely scared and anxious. I am terrified of working in the shop again."

All three men were arrested at the scene, and in 2021, one of the men was sentenced to six years. However the other two men were not charged until two years later.

In the months following the robbery, Rush, 33, committed a further offence of battery and was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison.

Mark Stuart, defending, said this had prompted the defendant to tackle his issues with addiction and live a law abiding life. He has engaged with drug treatment and now mentors others who are dealing with the same issues. Rush wrote a letter to Judge Richard Archer, sentencing, pleading to be allowed to keep his liberty in order to continue with his ongoing rehabilitation.

Mr Stuart said had Rush been sentenced in 2021/22 it would be hard to argue against an immediate custodial sentence, however the defendant has since given the court confidence that an alternative course can be taken.

Judge Archer said: "Since your release from custody you seem to have made considerable efforts to rehabilitate yourself and distance yourself from a life of crime. You have committed no further offences."

He said there was an "extraordinary and exceptional delay" in the case which was not the defendant's fault. "So long had passed that you thought this was behind you", he said. "It was when you had started on your own journey of rehabilitation that you found yourself in receipt of a postal requisition regarding these charges."

Judge Archer said he now had to take into account the current overcrowding in prisons and consider whether a community sentence could suffice. He handed down a two year community order with 20 days rehabilitation activity requirements and 100 hours of unpaid work.

But he warned Rush: "I am keeping a beady eye on you to ensure there is ample room for you to be properly punished if you do not comply."