A MAN with special educational needs went behind the counter at a convenience store and grabbed cigarettes from a shop assistant, a court was told.

Shayne Sowerby, who, “exceptionally” escaped an immediate prison sentence when convicted of similar offences in September 2019, because of his learning difficulties, has now run out of chances before the courts.

Durham Crown Court heard that Sowerby was still subject of a two-year community order as part of the previous sentence, when he committed the latest offence, on July 22, last year.

Jonathan Harley, prosecuting, said Sowerby entered the Brandon Convenience Store at 3pm, went to the counter and asked for three packets of cigarettes.

The assistant took them from the rack and asked Sowerby to present his card for payment.

But he then made an unsuccessful grab for the cigarettes, so he went round behind the counter and snatched them, pushing the assistant in the process.

He then left the premises and was last seen heading down Commercial Street.

The court was told that although shaken at the ordeal, the shop worker was not injured.

Sowerby, who was recognised on cctv, was arrested and charged with robbery.

Appearing at a plea hearing, the 46-year-old defendant, who lives in supported accommodation, in Redworth Road, Shildon, admitted a charge of robbery.

The court was told he has convictions on his record for robbery and burglary, both committed in similar circumstances, in 2019,

Due to his issues he was given a two-year community order at the sentencing hearing in September 2019.

Imposing a 16-month prison sentence in the latest case, Judge Ray Singh said Sowerby had been given a chance at the earlier hearing and so now had to be dealt with by way of an immediate prison sentence.

He was also made subject of a five-year restraining order, not to contact or approach the Brandon store assistant he robbed.