May 25 2011 by Gordon Robertson, Airdrie & Coatbridge
A SHOP assistant who was held up at knifepoint by a masked thug says he wishes the teenage crook hadn’t been jailed.
Kevin Bennett (19) was locked up for almost four years for assault and armed robbery at Caldercruix Convenience Store.
But Majid Rasul (20) told the Advertiser he was sad that Bennett was sent to prison and declared: “He deserves a second chance.”
Speaking from the shop in Dunbreck Avenue, Mr Rasul said: “I feel sympathy for him and I wish it hadn’t happened because he is an alright lad. He was a nice guy and there was no trouble at all before this.
“Maybe he was just desperate. It was at Christmas time and it gets hard for people then.
“I was upset when I heard he was sent to prison. If it was up to me I would have given him a second chance. He just made a mistake.”
Bennett, of nearby Moss Avenue, had gone into the store last December and confronted Mr Rasul who was working there with his aunt.
Mr Rasul recognised Bennett’s voice and says he wasn’t frightened at first by the ordeal.
But when the robber threatened him and started counting down from ten, he decided to hand over the cash.
Mr Rasul said: “I didn’t know right away that it was a knife he had, but I knew after he asked for money because he held it out. I thought I knew who it was by his voice, and then the scarf he had covering his face fell down a bit and I knew it was him.
“I wasn’t frightened to begin with but then he started counting down from 10 and said I’d better give him the money.
“My auntie was standing there and I was concerned for her safety. But I didn’t really know what to do.
“Then he came behind the counter and I said ‘get back round there and I’ll give you money’ and I gave him money from the till.”
Bennett was handed £300 and left the shop.
Police later stopped him close to his home and discovered the banknotes in his pocket.
He denied he had any involvement in the robbery and told cops the loot had been a gift from his father. Dad Robert Bennett later revealed he had not given his son any cash.
Bennett pled guilty to a charge of assault and robbery and last Friday at the High Court in Glasgow was sentenced to three years and nine months.
Passing sentence, Judge Lord Turnbull told Bennett: “You have pled guilty to an offence of the most serious nature.
“It is the duty of the courts to protect shopkeepers and others who, through nothing other than hard work, provide a service to the rest of the community.
“Your conduct in the present case must be viewed as all the more serious and concerning given the fact that you were on probation and a community service order at the time.”
The court was told Bennett was on probation at the time, having been convicted of assault.
Ronnie Renucci, defending, told the court his client “accepts full responsibility for his actions”.
He added: “At the age of 19 he now finds himself before the High Court for sentence.
“It is a matter he has not taken lightly and his involvement in this offence is a matter for which he expresses genuine remorse and has shown genuine victim empathy in relation to this matter.
“He is thoroughly ashamed of his conduct.”