Bandit ‘ill’ when bottle shop raided

Wodonga court
Wodonga court

AN armed robber showed no emotion yesterday when told he faced a “considerable” time behind bars.

But County Court judge Roy Punshon said he first wanted to reflect this weekend on the sentence he would impose on Brendan Coleman.

Coleman pointed an unloaded, single-barrel shotgun at the head of a bottle shop attendant in Wodonga on July 7 last year.

The worker handed over $300 to $310 in cash, which Coleman stuffed in a bag before fleeing.

Defence barrister Charles Morgan yesterday asked the court to consider a psychologist’s report that said Coleman suffered from an undiagnosed, persistent depressive illness.

“Particularly at that time, he was suffering a considerable depressive illness related to his contact with his children and his relationship with their mother,” he said.

Mr Morgan said it was clear his client was also under the influence of illicit drugs at the time.

Judge Punshon said the depressive illness referred to was clearly not the only matter that had to be considered in sentencing.

“That all needs to be balanced against the terrifying nature of the crime,” he said. “Clearly it would have been worse if the gun was loaded.”

In response, Mr Morgan said: “He had the capacity to load the gun and he chose not to.”

Coleman, 28, pleaded guilty in Wodonga on Wednesday to armed robbery, using a firearm when prohibited and handling stolen goods.

The first two charges will be amalgamated for sentencing.

The court heard Coleman rode his motorcycle from a West Albury address where he was staying to the BWS liquor store in Wodonga.

He pulled a balaclava over his face, walked into the store and pointed the gun at the head and body of the shop assistant.

Mr Morgan put the psychologist’s report to the court within the context of how Coleman’s mental state might have affected his moral culpability.

Judge Punshon did not want to dismiss the report but said Coleman was no less culpable because he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

He said it needed to be recognised that Coleman was capable of planning his actions to the extent that he made a deliberate choice not to load the gun.

“This suggests his thinking processes were not as bad at the time.”

Judge Punshon said it was clear Coleman would benefit from psychological assistance in jail and after he re-entered the community on parole.

Coleman was remanded in custody to be sentenced on Monday at 12.30pm.