Chip shop robbery accused has ‘profound learning difficulties’

The High Court in Belfast.

The High Court in Belfast.

A teenager with special needs accused of robbing a Derry chip shop is under investigation for another raid across the border, the High Court heard today.

The 17-year-old, described as having profound learning difficulties, allegedly brandished an iron bar before seizing a cash register containing nearly £700 in the city on September 4.

Prosecutors claimed he escaped with two others in a getaway car discovered to have cocaine in it after being abandoned.

The youth, who cannot be identified, denies charges of robbery, possession of an offensive weapon, and having a Class A drug with intent to supply.

Granting bail, a judge banned him from contacting staff or going near the chip shop on Spencer Road in the city’s Waterside.

He is alleged to have entered the fast food premises with an accomplice, struck the counter with an iron bar and then snatched the cash till.

Both raiders, whose faces were said to have been partially covered, fled to a waiting car driven by a third suspect, the court heard.

The vehicle left the scene, struck another car and travelled two miles before the occupants got out and escaped.

Prosecution counsel said police believed the 17-year-old could be identified from CCTV footage of the incident.

She also disclosed that he was being investigated in connection with a cigarette robbery at a filling station in Fahan, Co. Donegal, earlier the same night.

“Police believe the same individuals were involved,” the barrister said.

Joe Brolly, defending, stressed that his teenage client was not charged with any other offences.

Describing the prosecution case against the accused as weak, Mr Brolly set out details of his special needs.

“He has profound learning difficulties,” he added.

Ruling that the teenager could be released from custody, Lord Justice Weatherup ordered: “He’s to have no contact with his co-accused, the people in the shop or the owner of the shop.”