A teenage Hastings dairy robber has been sentenced to three years and three months' jail — the son of hard-working, church-going parents, but the one who had "run off the rails".

That was the summary of Judge Bridget Mackintosh in Napier District Court yesterday as she sentenced Atarangi Moataane, of Flaxmere, for his part in the late-afternoon May 28 robbery of Palm Store, on the corner of Frederick and Konini Sts.

Aged 18 at the time of the robbery, Moataane had become involved in a street gang in the Flaxmere area, and his parents hope that when he is released from jail he will return to Tonga and live a good life.

Two men wearing balaclavas and hoods entered the shop about 4.30pm armed with a screwdriver and confronted the woman at the counter.

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As the shopkeeper fled to the rear of the premises the robbers grabbed the till and escaped, going to a nearby property where they pulled the till apart, took the cash and threw the broken cash machine out the window.

Moataane was found by police in a shed on the property with coins, and part of the till, but denying he had taken part.

He did however plead guilty, in June, a familiar figure even to the judge who yesterday noted she'd seen him in court before, during his youth court career, which had comprised appearances for one aggravated robbery and 10 burglaries, and in the adult courts where he already had six convictions for burglary.

Judge Mackintosh said Moataane and his co-offender planned the robbery, arriving in a vehicle, donning the balaclava and arming themselves for the purpose.

While having fled to the rear, leaving the robbers to grab the till and make their escape, the victim had told of the ongoing fears she had at work in a shop where she had no option but to keep working because of the nature of the business, and when anyone came into the shop with their head covered in any way.

An alleged co-offender has denied being involved and is still before the courts.