A TEENAGER claimed he was bullied into carrying out a robbery at a convenience store.

Richard Thompson, 18, threatened a lone female assistant with a claw hammer, demanding money from the till, at Somal's, in Ouston, near Chester-le-Street.

Durham Crown Court heard that she tried to stall him by saying he would be caught on closed-circuit TV footage. But an accomplice, standing in the doorway, swore and told the woman to give Thompson the money.

Chris Williamson, prosecuting, said the shop owner believed between £300 and £400 was handed over, but Thompson later told police it was about £130.

Witnesses saw Thompson running towards nearby woodland, where the cap and fleece top he wore during the robbery were recovered.

Five days later Thompson handed himself in and made full admissions, telling police: "Basically, I got forced into it because I got bullied".

But Mr Williamson said Thompson was "too frightened" to reveal the identity of the bully.

Mark Styles, mitigating, said: "Clearly he can't be seen to off-load blame totally, but it does seem, from what the victim says, that someone else was involved. He was very much the front man, captured on video."

Mr Styles said that Thompson had had "a difficult upbringing", lapsing into drug taking prior to January's shop raid.

Thompson, of Albert Street, Grange Villa, near Chester-le-Street, admitted robbery and was sent to a young offenders' institution for 18 months.

Judge Denis Orde told him the assistant was "clearly terrified" into handing over money from the till. He said the sentence would have been much longer had a blow been struck with the hammer.