A man who told a Lanark shop assistant that he had a gun and asked for money was spared a prison sentence last Wednesday after a sheriff watched a video of the incident.
There was a general acceptance at Lanark Sheriff Court, and in a background report, that his actions had been an “idiotic joke”, as he claimed.
John Wilson, 38, of Strath Hallidale, Law, had earlier admitted that on May 16 last year he behaved in a threatening and abusive manner by entering Bargain B’s in Lanark High Street wearing a motorcycle helmet, requesting momey from a worker there, and claiming that he was in possession of a gun.
When he returned to court for sentence last Wednesday, sheriff Nikola Stewart took time to watch the video, said to be about a minute long.
Solicitor Elspeth Forrest told her that she did not seek to minimise the offence, describing it as stupid in the extreme, but she said that the video showed an incident which was brief and in which the young lady acted with aplomb.
“That was luck,” the sheriff commented. “It could have been the most vulnerable lady in the world, who could have been terrified by that.”
And she added: “Everyone in the room must be thinking that in these days, when horrible things happen, for someone to play games with these threats is horrifying.”
Sentence had been deferred for months on Wilson, and his solicitor said that he had found it very stressful and was very anxious.
“I have to be talked down from a high standard,” the sheriff said.
“People go to prison for this sort of thing all the time.”
“My starting point is – does he go to prison,” she told the solicitor.
“You are going to have to talk me down from that.”
But she told Wilson that she was persuaded it was an idiotic act he had carried out – she hesitated to use the word joke because it was so far from a joke, she said – and she was also persuaded that he now realised that.
Wilson has a limited income, so the sheriff ordered him to pay £350 compensation to the shop assistant.