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Flynn Winston Aitcheson-Greene (20) was sentenced to 22 months' imprisonment for the aggravated robbery of the Kakanui Dairy on September 25, but the Dunedin District Court heard this week his fate may rest in the hands of his mother.
Judge Kevin Phillips allowed leave for the sentence to be converted to home detention should an appropriate address be available.
He said Aitcheson-Greene's mother would have to weigh up whether it would be in her family's best interest for him to serve the sentence with them.
Defence counsel Anne Stevens QC said her client was a naive first-time criminal.
"Quite clearly he wanted cigarettes, so he made this hare-brained scheme," she said.
Aitcheson-Greene's plan was to make the 10-minute drive to target the Kakanui Dairy because he knew it was quiet.
He had lived in the small community with his family eight years earlier and even knew the woman he was robbing.
But when he walked into the store at 2.50pm, she did not recognise him.
Aitcheson-Greene wore a black beanie, dark sunglasses and pulled a black top up to cover the lower part of his face as he entered. He carried a spring-loaded BB pistol.
"It is impossible to tell that it is not a real firearm without handling it," a police summary said.
But the 59-year-old shopkeeper did not stick around to find out.
Before the defendant could make any demands, she said: "you can help yourself to the cigarettes and money, I'm out of here."
She bolted to her house where she activated a panic alarm.
Meanwhile, Aitcheson-Greene went behind the counter and swiped three pouches of tobacco and five packets of cigarettes, worth a total of $290.
His attempts to open the till were unsuccessful.
Mrs Stevens described the robbery as "hopeless" and said her client suffered depression and anxiety.
"He's shaking for two hours afterwards because he's so freaked out by what he's done," she said. "He doesn't even point the gun or say anything."
Judge Phillips said Aitcheson-Greene had gone to school with the victim's son.
She now had flashbacks to the incident, the judge said.
"She sees your masked face before her in her dreams."
It was the defendant's use of drugs and addiction to them that was the driver behind the crime, Judge Phillips said, rather than his mental-health issues.
When police arrested Aitcheson-Greene at his home they found 81 rounds of ammunition in his bedroom.
As well as pleading guilty to its possession, he also admitted stealing $100 of fuel in two petrol-station drive-offs and unlawfully taking a vehicle.
Those events were unrelated to the aggravated robbery.
Aitcheson-Greene was ordered to pay total reparation of $2254, banned from driving for a year and his Mazda was confiscated.