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Dublin man robbed store near garda station so he would be arrested

Gardai arrived to find Mr Lee face down after being tackled by staff
Gardai arrived to find Mr Lee face down after being tackled by staff

A former chef who carried out a botched shop robbery close to a garda station so he would be arrested has been jailed.

Christopher Lee (33) told gardaí that he wanted to either end his life or get locked up because he was sick of being “strung out” on drugs.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard he was now drug free after tackling his addiction and was studying to help others with addiction.

Lee, with an address at Crosscare, Dublin, pleaded guilty to the attempted robbery of Chapman's Superstore, Castle Crescent, Clondalkin, Dublin on March 12, 2015.

During the robbery attempt Lee waved a kitchen knife at shopkeeper James Chapman. Mr Chapman picked up a piece of wood and swung it at Lee to try to knock the knife from his hand.

During this struggle the tip of Chapman's finger was cut off, Garda Fiona Ruddy told the court.

Judge Martin Nolan asked Gda Ruddy: “Could it be that his finger encountered the knife rather than him swinging the knife?” The garda replied that she couldn't say.

Judge Nolan said that Lee probably didn't swing the knife to injure but that he had armed himself before going into the shop.

Lee has 36 previous convictions including two for robbery. He was taken into State care when he was nine after suffering violence in the family home, defence barrister Pieter Le Vert BL said.

At the age of 18 he had to leave State care and he felt like he had lost his family one more time, counsel said. He became homeless and drifted into alcohol, drug abuse and later drug related crime.

Judge Nolan imposed a sentence of 20 months imprisonment after noting Lee's serious criminal record. He said it would be a longer sentence but for Lee's significant steps of rehabilitation.

Gda Ruddy told Antonia Boyle BL, prosecuting, that when she arrived at the shop she found Lee lying face down on the floor. The shopkeeper and a customer had tackled him to the ground and Lee began crying and apologising to them.

Mr Le Vert said his client was in the hell of drug addiction at the time but has clawed himself out of that hole.

“A man finds himself in the position he found himself in, in hell, and he has the insight, the courage to deal with it, to claw himself out of that hole, and the will, not only to heal himself, but to help others.

“He has done everything he can to rehabilitate. He is rehabilitated,” he said.

Lee told gardaí that he decided on a whim to rob the shop because it was close to the garda station because he wanted to be arrested. He said he didn't set out to hurt anyone and would not have committed the crime if he thought the shopkeeper would be hurt.

“I didn't mean to harm anyone. It wasn't me. It was the drugs. I'm not proud of it. I'm sick of being on drugs,” he said.

He told gardaí he was abusing tablets, heroin and weed but wanted to get clean.

Declan Brennan