Michael Johnson.
Michael Johnson.

How drugs turned a smiling teen into an armed bandit

AT 15, Michael William Johnson was sleeping on friends' couches and smoking cannabis.

At 18, he was committing armed robberies to feed his new meth habit.

At 19, he is facing a jail sentence. In Rockhampton District Court yesterday Johnson was in tears as the facts of his crimes were read out.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robbery, and summary charges of failing to stop for police and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

He first hit the headlines in December last year after robbing the Foodworks in Park Avenue and the kiosk in Rosslyn Bay.

He told the victims of his second robbery, "I'd rather hurt myself than hurt you".

The Foodworks robbery was committed only six days after facing Rockhampton Magistrates Court on multiple charges, where he was given probation and a community service order.

On December 7, 2014, Johnson walked into Foodworks carrying a 30cm knife.Two teens were working at the time, and CCTV captured Johnson approaching them at the counter, pulling out the knife and demanding cash and cigarettes.

Two days later he went into the kiosk at Rosslyn Bay with a tea towel covering the lower half of his face, this time with a 20cm knife.

He again took cigarettes and cash.

As a terrified customer pleaded with Johnson not to hurt them, he said to her, "I'd rather hurt myself than hurt you".

The court heard Johnson had already tried to commit suicide twice; once at the beginning of high school, and once at the end of it.

He has since written apology letters to his victims and received forgiveness from the lady who was at the kiosk.

Crown prosecutor Ben Jackson said although the woman had been very distressed at the time, she saw Johnson as "a very lost young man" and "hopes he can move to a much better place in his life".

However, Mr Jackson also said while Johnson was remorseful for his actions it was a despicable crime.

After robbing the kiosk, police caught up to his car on the Scenic Hwy, where they were led on a 10-minute chase which reached speeds of 150kmh.

Through Emu Park he continually swerved onto the wrong side of the road and hit another car before colliding with a police car.

Defence barrister Maree Willey said Johnson had a troubled childhood, with no contact with his father and a strained relationship with his stepfather.

It was after he started sleeping on friends' couches at 15 that he started getting into trouble.

In November 2014 he started using meth because he wanted to "lose himself".

He was under the influence of drugs when he committed the crimes.In total, about $1700 in cigarettes and cash were stolen.

Johnson has been in custody since December 10, 2014, serving 225 days, but Judge David Searles told Johnson he was still a young man with his whole life ahead of him.

He sentenced him to three years' jail for each robbery, to be served concurrently, with a parole release date of September 24, 2015, taking into account time already served.

He also prohibited him from obtaining a licence for two years and six months and added 50 days in prison for the summary charges, also concurrently, plus $1551 restitution.

"Our community does not want to see young people in jail if it can avoid it," Judge Searles said. "It's over to you now. Good luck."

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