"It is every staff member at a small retail outlet's worst nightmare".
That was how Judge Maree MacKenzie described an armed hold-up at a Rotorua petrol station when she sentenced the "main aggressor" in the Rotorua District Court this afternoon.
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Jayson Trent Tawhara will spend three years, 10 months and two weeks in prison without parole for his role in the aggravated robbery at Lynmore BP on Te Ngae Rd last year.
The store manager was in the Rotorua District Court public gallery for Tawhara's appearance this morning.
Her two staff working at the time of the robbery were not injured.
However, Judge MacKenzie said their victim impact statements showed "significant palpable and clear psychological and emotional consequences".
She said they had been fearful, upset and had had trouble sleeping.
"A victim does not know whether a firearm is loaded or not".
The police summary of facts said Tawhara and co-offender Remo Tauwari Waikato concocted the robbery plan while drinking at a Rotorua backpackers where they lived.
Tawhara, described as the "main aggressor", was armed with a rifle that had a bolt action with a suppressor when he entered the Lynmore BP on Te Ngae Rd with Waikato at 2am on December 10.
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Tawhara pointed the gun at a staff member behind the counter and demanded cash and 50g of tobacco.
Waikato put a backpack on the counter and one of the two staff members emptied 46 packets of tobacco (worth $2824.10 in total) and $122.40 in cash into the bag.
Waikato tried to calm them by telling them he and his co-offender were "not robbing them, they were robbing the Government".
They then ran back to their car and drove away.
Judge MacKenzie said the pair had "scoped out" the business earlier in the night before returning wearing hoodies, bandannas across their faces, and gloves.
She said most of the stolen items were not recovered by police.
Tawhara's defence counsel, Ann-Marie Beveridge, argued her client had an upbringing involving parental violence, substance misuse, poverty and transient whāngai care.
She said he began offending at age 18 and, at the time of the robbery last year, he was struggling with poverty and wanted to join a gang for a sense of belonging.
However, Crown prosecutor Charlie Harvey said there was not a strong link between Tawhara's upbringing and the aggravated robbery.
Judge MacKenzie said there was "clear premeditation" behind the robbery and Tawhara was already on release conditions at the time.
For this reason, she said Tawhara would not be eligible for parole this time.
She reduced his sentence in light of his guilty plea, remorse shown, and deprived upbringing.
Tawhara kept his heavily tattooed hands clasped in front as he was sentenced, and looked up at Judge MacKenzie intermittently.
His co-offender Waikato was sentenced to three years and nine months' imprisonment in June.
The store manager did not want to speak to the Rotorua Daily Post about the sentencing outcome.