A man who armed himself to rob more than $12,000 from gambling venues and his partner who drove him to commit the crimes have faced court.
Robert Gordon Williams, 32, pleaded guilty at the County Court of Victoria on Monday to three charges of armed robbery and one charge of attempted armed robbery.
Adele Louise Young, 35, pleaded guilty during the same hearing to two charges of assisting an offender, one charge of attempted armed robbery and one charge of armed robbery.
Crown prosecutor Simon Lee said on October 21, 2018, Young drove Williams to Ararat from their home in Melton West where Williams entered the Ararat RSL soon after 12.30am wearing sunglasses, gloves and a bandana around his face and armed with a jemmy bar.
The court heard Williams approached the gaming counter and threatened staff with the jemmy bar to 'put the f*cken money in the bag' and said 'do you want to go home safely tonight'.
Williams fled the RSL with more than $7500 in cash to the car driven by Young and discarded a number of items he was wearing on the side of the road as she drove away.
Crown prosecutor Lee said on October 29, 2018 Young drove Williams to the Sebastopol Bowling Club and later collected another man from his home nearby.
The court heard Young then drove Williams and the third accused to a street near to the bowling club.
The two men entered about 11.50pm, Williams with his hood pulled over his head, cloth wrapped over his face and armed with a wrecking bar and rushed towards the security guard and said 'don't do anything stupid'.
A staff member at the cashier counter ran into the strong room and locked herself in with a supervisor, where they phone triple zero and watched the offenders on CCTV.
Williams removed cash from the gaming counter and fled with $5300 back to the car and Young drove them away.
Crown prosecutor Lee said on November 11, 2018, Young drove Williams to Gisborne and parked outside the Victorian Tavern.
The court heard Williams, wearing gloves and a balaclava and armed with a large crowbar, found the side entrance doors had been locked.
A security staff member observed Williams attempting to smash the glass sliding door before fleeing the scene and setting fire to items of clothing he was wearing on the side of a road.
Crown prosecutor Lee said on November 18, 2018 Young drove Williams to Sebastopol where they picked up a third accused before driving to the Ararat RSL.
Williams entered the RSL with a hood over his head and a black cloth over his face, carrying a metal pole wrapped in grey cloth meant to look like a firearm.
The court heard he approached the bar and gaming area pointing the imitation firearm and yelled 'empty the drawers, all of it' and held the imitation firearm to the neck of a staff member as he unloaded the cash drawer.
They fled the scene in Young's car.
The court heard Williams and Young were arrested when they returned home the next day.
Williams has remained in custody since his arrest and has served 546 days pre-sentence detention.
He was unemployed with a raging methamphetamine habit and then finds himself committing these offences to support him and his partner and to support his habit.Megan Casey, defence barrister
Young was granted bail, which was revoked in February - she has served 94 days pre-sentence detention.
Williams' defence barrister Megan Casey said Williams was drug affected at the time of the offending and he had a longstanding battle with methamphetamine use since he was 14 years old.
Ms Casey said Williams was a New Zealand citizen who came to Australia at 18 and had lived here since.
The court heard he has two children, one he is not involved with and one who he has contact with.
Ms Casey said Williams relapsed into drug abuse in 2018 triggered by two major life stressors; being told he would not be granted custody of his child and Young, his current partner, experiencing a miscarriage.
"As a result of his relapse he started sporadically attending work and then stopped attending all together," she said.
"He loses his job and as a New Zealand citizen, he is not entitled to Centrelink. He was unemployed with a raging methamphetamine habit and then finds himself committing these offences to support him and his partner and to support his habit."
The court heard Williams had good support from Young's family and had benefited from counselling that was a requirement of a community corrections order in the past, but suffered when the counselling stopped in 2018 as he could not afford to pay for it.
Ms Casey said Williams was motivated to engage in drug and mental health treatment and remain abstinent.
"He has throughout life tried to be a valuable member of the community, however there have been times of unemployment when his addictions have got the better of him and there have been life stressors at the time," she said.
"When he has had the right support in place he has done well and stayed out of trouble for long periods of time. That is what he wants to do going forward, he wants to stay out of trouble."
Ms Casey said as a New Zealand citizen, Williams was unsure whether he would be deported from Australia upon his release, which caused him feelings of anxiety.
She submitted Williams had prospects for rehabilitation, showed through his solid work history, expression of remorse and the letters he had written to victims.
"The offending is largely driven by substance abuse but the substance abuse comes on the back of disintegrating mental health, " Ms Casey said.
Young's defence barrister Christopher Terry said the offending was 'serious' but Young was involved at a lower level, particularly in relation to the charge of assisting the offender.
Mr Terry submitted a sentence of a community corrections order would be in the range on the two assisting an offender charges, but it was conceded a term of imprisonment was warranted on the armed robbery charge.
A psychologist report tendered to the court stated Young had difficulties with her mood, anxiety and depression and was easily influenced by her partners which often led to drug use.
"She doesn't have a great ability to recognise her own emotional distress and finds it difficult to assert herself, tends to rely on others for support and can be influenced by peer groups," Mr Terry said.
"The miscarriage and my client's poor sense of self and inability to deal with problematic issues in her life in a better way led her to resume using methamphetamine."
Mr Terry said it was possible Young's depressive condition would deteriorate in custody, particularly being separated from her son and mother, and she could be influenced by other inmates.
"She presents with strong prospects of rehabilitation," he said. "The longer she spends in custody the more there is risk for her prospects of rehabilitation to become compromised."
The court heard Young decided to have her bail revoked in February as she knew she would be sentenced to some time in prison for the offences. It is her first time in custody.
Williams and Young will return to court via video link for sentencing before Judge Kevin Doyle on May 27.
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