A Victoria man robbed Vancity Credit Union in January because he was threatened by drug dealers who put a gun in his mouth, provincial court heard on Friday.
James Andrew Macdonald, 33, pleaded guilty to robbing the bank at 3075 Douglas St. on Jan. 24.
“These are very unusual circumstances for this type of this offence,” defence lawyer Tom Morino said.
Macdonald, who has a criminal record of petty crimes, has struggled with addiction, Morino told Judge Sue Wishart.
“Most tragically, he became indebted to drug dealers,” Morino said. “He told me certain individuals threatened him. A gun was brandished and put in his mouth. They put a scarf around his neck and tried to make him realize the seriousness of the circumstances. … They demanded he go in and rob the bank.”
Macdonald was terrified when he went into the bank, Morino said. He had no hope of escaping and may have left his fingerprints behind on purpose with the hope of being arrested.
After the robbery, Macdonald took the money directly to the people he owed.
“He did not flee Victoria. He knew full well his face was everywhere and decided to plead guilty,” Morino said.
Crown prosecutor Patrick Weir called the robbery extremely unsophisticated. “He must know he’s being captured on video by about eight cameras.”
Macdonald waited in line and approached the teller, who later told police that Macdonald seemed nervous. He did not have a weapon and handed the teller a note: “This is a robbery. Cash. All $100s.”
The teller told Macdonald she had to go to the automatic cash machine to get the money. She got $1,000, then grabbed $300 in bait money and put it all in a plastic bag, Weir said.
Macdonald was wearing half-gloves with the tops folded down, leaving his fingertips exposed, Weir noted. He was recognized almost immediately when a photograph from the bank’s surveillance cameras was emailed to police and probation officers. He was arrested Jan. 30.
Before being sentenced, Macdonald stood and said he was sorry, apologizing specifically to the teller.
Bank robberies are treated seriously by the courts because of the risk to the public and the vulnerability of tellers, Wishart said.
She agreed that the offence was a significant departure from Macdonald’s past behaviour and had been committed to satisfy a drug debt.
“Nevertheless, Mr. Macdonald has committed a serious offence. … There must be a significant sentence for anyone who robs a bank in this fashion,” Wishart said.
Macdonald received a 16-month jail sentence followed by one year’s probation with conditions not to go to Vancity Credit Union and to take substance abuse or other counselling as directed.
Wishart credited Macdonald with 38 days time served. She ordered him to provide a sample of his DNA and imposed a 10-year weapons prohibition.
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