Ceri George Jones targeted premises at night or in the early hours, threatening staff with weapons ranging from a bread knife to a screwdriver after covering his face with his coat, hood or scarf and demanding money.
Leeds Crown Court heard that Jones carried out nine robberies in the space of just three weeks across West and South Yorkshire as he desperately attempted to find cash to pay off a drugs debt.
Jailing the 41-year-old, from Smeaton Road, Pontefract, Judge Christopher Batty claimed the defendant’s bid to pay off the drug debt was “utterly unacceptable because you went on a spree of robberies”.
He said staff, often working alone, had been terrified by him as “they have no idea how this will end”, and added: “You know you don’t have any intention of using the knife or weapons on them, but they don’t.”
One woman had so been so frightened she could not return to work, the court heard yesterday. The judge said: “No doubt these are matters you didn’t give a second thought to, all you wanted was cash or something that you could sell.
“People who work in shops, particularly at night, require protection from the courts and people have to understand if they commit offences such as these they will receive sentences which are very significant indeed.”
During one of the raids he struck at the Shell Garage in Front Street, Pontefract, on August 21, approaching the member of staff at the counter and telling her “empty your till”.
The woman assistant looked up to see him with his face obscured and only his eyes visible, holding a knife with a three inch blade in his right hand.
She handed over £55 in £5 notes while managing to activate an alarm at the same time. Jones left when she told him she had no £10 or £20 notes.
Michael Collins, prosecuting, said the next night Jones robbed the Spar shop in Wakefield Road in the village of Ackworth, shouting to the woman who was stacking cigarettes to open the till.
Jones admitted five robberies and asked for eight other offences to be taken into consideration. The court heard this included four offences of robbery earlier in August in Doncaster and one at Bargain Booze in Thurnscoe when £470 was stolen.
Chris Morton, representing Jones, said he had managed to stay out of trouble when off drugs for three years but had found himself unable to cope looking after a teenage daughter and resorted to drugs again “for solace and comfort.”
He thought he was being given them for nothing but was then told he was expected to pay for them. “He had been cornered and suckered into that position,” he told the court.
After the case, Detective Inspector Paul Harrison, of Wakefield CID, said: “This lengthy sentence reflects the harsh and callous attitude of Ceri Jones when committing these crimes. His victims were just going about their daily business in their place of work and he threatened them with a knife, leaving them distressed and frightened, for minimal financial gain.
“We are always pleased when criminals like Ceri Jones receive significant sentences.”