Sheffield robber who terrorised shop staff with imitation gun begs judge for longer jail sentence

A career criminal who left staff fearing for their lives when he attempted to rob a Sheffield shop wielding an imitation firearm asked a judge to give him a longer sentence.

Thursday, 30th June 2022, 11:54 am

Defendant Paul Smith made the unusual request through his barrister, Zaiban Alam, during a hearing held at Sheffield Crown Court on June 28, claiming he wanted to receive a sentence of at least 10 years because he believed it would result in him going to a Category B prison.

Ms Alam told the judge, Recorder Daffyd Enoch QC, that Smith wanted to be transferred to a Category B prison because he believed it would allow him access to the therapeutic help and courses he needs, and said he was under the impression this would not be possible with a sentence of less than a decade.

But Recorder Enoch told Smith that after careful consideration he was not prepared to ‘tinker’ with the sentencing guidelines, by which he is bound, to extend Smith’s sentence at his request, and said he regarded it as an attempt to ‘work the system’.

Paul Smith asked a Sheffield judge to jail him for at least a decade in the hope of getting the help he needs while behind bars

Prosecuting barrister, Matthew Burdon, told the court how Smith, of Machon Bank, Nether Edge carried out the attempted robbery at the Sainsbury’s store on Division Street in Sheffield city centre at around 8.15am on December 16 last year.

In a statement read to the court, a Sainsbury’s staff member working behind the counter described the terrifying moment Smith approached her, armed with what she believed to be a gun, and demanded she had over the money from the till.

“I was in fear for my life, I actually thought he was going to kill me,” she said.

Mr Burdon said Smith, aged 47, was subsequently tackled to the floor by the store manager, who was joined by the store's security guard.

Smith attempted to flee but was detained again by the security guard.

Another staff member said in a statement to the police that during the attempted robbery she thought she might not see ‘Christmas or her family’ again.

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The weapon he threatened staff with was found to be an imitation ball bearing gun, Mr Burdon said.

Referring to a picture of the imitiation gun, Recorder Enoch commented on how ‘real’ it looked.

“The defendant was interviewed by police. He fully admitted the offence and said he wanted to go back to prison to get help,” Mr Burdon said.

Smith pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and possession of an imitation firearm at an earlier hearing.

Mr Burdon told the court that Smith has an extensive criminal record of 133 offences from 34 convictions, with previous convictions for attempted robbery and possession of an imitation firearm in 2014.

In mitigation, Ms Alam said that while she had to advance Smith’s request for a sentence of at least 10 years, as an officer of the court she had to acknowledge that the appropriate starting point for Smith’s sentence was eight years – after taking his previous convictions and guilty pleas into consideration.

She added: “He’s desperate to get some help...he’s been in and out of prison for many, many years and hasn’t received any assistance.”

Recorder Enoch jailed Smith for eight years, and commended the Sainsbury’s staff who tackled him for their 'extraordinary bravery'.

“You scared the various members of staff in a way they will probably never forget,” Recorder Enoch told Smith, as he sent him to prison.