Five years jail for robbing pharmacy armed with syringe

A MAN who held up a Toowoomba pharmacy while armed with what appeared to be a blood-filled syringe has been jailed for five years.

Justin Michael Clarke, 30, had spent 134 days in pre-sentence custody before pleading guilty before Toowoomba District Court yesterday to armed robbery.

Clarke had threatened two staff members of the West St Pharmacy with a syringe about 8.30am, February 17, Crown prosecutor Noel Needham told the court.

Eventually, terrified staff complied with his demands and Clarke fled on foot with a number of boxes of morphine-based prescription medication.

A passer-by followed Clarke and directed police to a Campbell St home where offices found him injecting himself with drugs, Mr Needham said.

On parole at the time for past offences, Clarke had remained in custody since, firstly serving out his previous sentence and then pre-sentence custody for the armed robbery.

Barrister Scott Lynch, for Clarke, said his client had suffered a skull fracture when he was 10 and had started using illicit drugs from the age of 11.

His client had not tried to disguise himself in any way during the robbery which was committed in a community where he was well known, Mr Lynch submitted.

Judge Douglas McGill SC noted Clarke suffered hepatitis C and that the ordeal "would have been a very frightening experience for pharmacy staff".

He sentenced Clarke to five years jail but ordered he be eligible to apply for release on parole as of October 13 next year.

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