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Teen gunman jailed for ‘chilling’ robberies of pokie venues

A teenage gunman and former “cleanskin” who pointed a rifle at staff while he and his co-accused stole cash has been jailed for seven years for his role in two robberies targeting poker machine venues around Brisbane.

Sep 28, 2021, updated Sep 28, 2021

Christian James Riley could be considered the “ringleader” of two armed robberies hitting a tavern and sports club shortly after his 18th birthday, the Brisbane District Court was told.

CCTV footage showed Riley and his younger co-offenders with t-shirts over their heads as they targeted the pokie rooms of the two venues during the robberies that lasted about three minutes each in September 2020.

According to a victim impact statement, staff were told “we’re not going to hurt you, we’re just here for the money” by the robbers, but Judge John Coker said the words would have come as “cold comfort” when confronted by a weapon.

While there was an element of planning involved in the robberies, prosecutor Ben Jackson said it came undone during the getaway given how quickly the offenders were caught by police on the second occasion.

Riley had no prior criminal history and it was “quite chilling” that a then 18-year-old could commit such crimes, Mr Jackson said.

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In response to suggestions her client was the ringleader, defence lawyer Anna Cappellano said that while his co-offenders were younger, there was not a significant age gap.

She said Riley was introduced to the drug ice at a young age and exposed to considerable domestic violence as a boy.

In sentencing, Judge Coker said Riley had taken an “enormous step” to go from a cleanskin with no criminal history to facing charges that carried a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

He sentenced the 19-year-old to seven years in prison taking into account more than a year of time served, an early guilty plea and what he described as “genuine remorse” demonstrated in a letter of apology.

Riley will be eligible for parole in January 2023.

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