A dairy owner who chased armed robbers out of his shop says tougher sentences are needed to clamp down on offenders.
Dairies in wider Manawatu are part of a nationwide spate of robberies, many of them carried out by large groups of people with firearms.
There have been six robberies of dairies and petrol stations across wider Manawatu in the past two months, prompting Central Districts Indian Association vice-president Paul Patel to arrange a meeting between police and business owners on Saturday.
Manhar Patel knows what he wants – tougher sentences for robbers.
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His store, the Summerhays Corner Superette, was robbed in 2015.
One of the men who robbed Patel’s shop, Demrus Edwards, was sentenced in the Palmerston North District Court on Wednesday to three years and four months’ jail for aggravated robbery.
The man who masterminded the burglary, Ihaka Hamuera Arapeta Paul, pleaded guilty before his trial got under way on Monday.
Patel said Edwards’ sentence did not seem harsh.
“Sometimes the court will give four years’ jail and they’ll get out in two,” he said.
“That’s not very good. The New Zealand justice system is just so soft. [Offenders] need to do some harder punishment.
“At the moment there are so many robberies going on in Palmerston North, Auckland, everywhere. All the shopkeepers are getting scared at the moment.”
Edwards had got Paul’s sister’s car impounded, and had no money to pay the $250 fee to get it released.
Paul scoped out the dairy before telling Edwards and another man to rob it.
Just before 4pm on February 11, 2015, Edwards and his associate entered and stole at least $1500 of cash.
A pistol was pointed at Patel and a woman in the shop before the robbers left.
Patel chased them from the store, grabbing a can of cat food as he went.
Patel told Stuff he would have thrown the can at them if he got close enough, but they had taken off through a nearby property before he reached them.
But he credited his actions for the robbers leaving their car behind – a key piece of evidence that enabled police to pin the robbery on Edwards and Paul.
The incident still affected Patel today.
He no longer stood behind the till when the store was open late, instead staying out the back and watching customers on CCTV.
”It’s been very tough.”
In court on Wednesday, Judge David Smith read excerpts from a victim impact statement the woman in the shop prepared.
She was terrified at what happened, and was surprised how badly she had been affected.
She no longer watched television shows featuring guns being pointed at people, and had reactions to pistols in movies and shows.
Her family had also been affected by how she reacted to these triggers, the judge said.
“These sorts of statements are why aggravated robbery carries a 14-year maximum. The impact on people goes far beyond the money taken.”
Paul is to be sentenced in June.