A man in the grip of a drug addiction attempted to rob a lone shop assistant at knifepoint, a court was told.

But the plucky store worker grabbed the knife and struggled with would-be robber Stephen Proudfoot, injuring her hand, before falling over.

Durham Crown Court heard that was enough to put off Proudfoot who fled the Premier premises, on Cockton Hill Road, Bishop Auckland, empty-handed.

Chris Baker, prosecuting, said despite wearing a mask, cap and gloves, the assistant recognised Proudfoot as someone who had previously used the shop.

He had waited until there were no other customers present before attempting the robbery, at about 1pm on September 10, this year.

The incident took place after the victim came back into the main body of the shop from the store room and saw the defendant, who approached her and pressed a knife to her back, saying words to the effect of, “open the till” and “give me the money”.

Mr Baker said as the shop worker grabbed the knife there was something of a “tug-of-war”, before some products on display were knocked over and she fell to the floor, as Proudfoot then decided to abandon his robbery bid.

The assistant wiped some blood from her injured hand, called the police and then carried on her job, serving a customer, before officers arrived at the premises.

Proudfoot was arrested two days later having been recognised and when placed in the rear of a police vehicle blew mucus over the floor.

Although he denied responsibility for the shop incident when interviewed, he went on to admit charges of attempted robbery, possessing a bladed article in public and criminal damage to the police vehicle at his first crown court appearance in the case, on October 11.

Appearing via video link from nearby Durham Prison for the sentencing hearing, the court was told the 44-year-old defendant, of Tindale Crescent, Bishop Auckland, has 11 previous convictions, including offences of shoplifting, drug possession and burglary in recent years.

The Northern Echo: Stephen Proudfoot received a 63-month sentence for attempted robbery of lone assistant working at

In a victim statement read to the court Mr Baker said the assistant involved in the incident, who did not feel it had affected her too much in the initial period, has since reported having suffered “significant” psychological effects in the intervening period.

She has had difficulty sleeping and hardly eats, having lost two stones in weight, and is undergoing counselling for depression and anxiety, for which she is also on medication.

Ian West, speaking on behalf of the defendant, said he accepted custody was, “inevitable”.

“The first thing he said to me was how ashamed he was for what he did that day and the depth of his addiction.

“He wishes to profoundly apologise to the assistant. He did not mean to hurt her.

“She was very brave to try to rest the knife from him and when she did fight back he fled empty-handed.

“Since he was admitted to custody he’s had time to reflect on the gravity of the position he has put himself in.

“He’s established contact with his family and has taken steps at rehabilitation, pledging it won’t happen again.

“It will be his first significantly lengthy custodial sentence as it’s his first conviction for robbery.

“It’s a bit out of character.

“He’s a man who has fallen into a bad place with his drug addiction and tried to deal with that through shoplifting offences having failed to take on board previous assistance offered to him.”

Judge Kidd told Proudfoot that when he sought to go behind the counter, the assistant, ”very bravely and with a surge of adrenaline” struggled with him trying to get him to drop the knife, but was pushed to the ground.

It had the effect of persuading the defendant to leave without taking any money.

But Judge Kidd said weeks later the victim has struggled in the after shock of the incident and requires counselling while receiving ongoing mental health treatment.

“So, your conduct has had a devastating effect on her, and she has lost two stones in weight in that relatively short period.

“There was a degree of planning and targeting of a woman alone in the shop that day, and you being familiar with that shop, where she has seen you there previously.”

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Judge Kidd imposed a 63-month prison sentence (five years and three months) on Proudfoot.

He was also made him subject of a ten-year restraining order prohibiting him from going to that shop.

The judge added that Proudfoot must serve two-thirds of his sentence before being eligible for release under licence supersion.