GAMBLING addict Shaun Bailey has been sentenced to four years in prison after holding up a lone cashier at Ladbrokes in Regent Street with an imitation gun.

Bailey, 26, of Medgbury Road, led the police on a chase on March 28 before handing himself in.

At 9am he had walked into the store and threatened the young woman behind the till with a BB gun before making off with £610 in cash.

At his sentencing at Swindon Crown Court yesterday, the court heard Bailey had been driven to desperation by his addiction.

Colin Meeke, prosecuting, said: “A young woman of no more than 20 years of age opened the business at 8am.

“There is generally only one member of staff working there at any one time. She was on her own when this defendant came into the store at around 9am.

“He appeared to fill in one of the betting slips and presented her with it. He then took off his rucksack.

“Miss Phillips was processing his bet but as she turned her back to him she saw he had what appeared to be a gun and had laid it on the counter. He threatened her with the gun and said ‘get me the money’.

“He then waved it in the air, shouting ‘quick, quick’.”

The court heard that Bailey forced Miss Phillips at gunpoint to go to the other till and prove there was no money inside before walking out of the store and taking off on a pushbike.

“The defendant then presented himself at a police station in Bath and said he had been responsible for a robbery at Ladbrokes in Swindon,” said Mr Meeke.

“He was arrested and asked about the gun because the police were concerned about it. He told them he had dumped it in an alleyway in a rucksack, and his bike and coat were there as well.

“At the request of Miss Phillips she went to work at another branch of Ladbrokes where she would not have to be on her own. It is telling that the shop must not be single manned for six months after a robbery.

“She had been left on her own on a number of occasions afterwards and has been distressed on a number of occasions about her employers response.

“She is now looking for other employment. This is a man who has gone from nothing to an extremely serious offence in one hit.”

Nicholas Wragg, defending, said: “No attempt is made to justify the defendant’s actions. He has been addicted to betting terminals, and as a result of this addiction he has attempted to take his own life.

“A much loved and respected family man, committed employee and devoted partner and father has ruined so many lives in the space of an hour or so. In the days leading up to this incident he has borrowed money from his family because he had gambled away his entire wage. He thought if he gambled that money he could recoup his losses. He failed. He has no previous convictions. He is not a street thug or sadistic criminal, he is a desperate man who made a decision he immediately regretted.”

Judge Tim Mouseley QC, sentencing, said: “This offence is so serious only an immediate prison sentence can be imposed.”

John Bailey, 55, Shaun’s father, said after the sentencing: “It is about time the Government got a hold of this gambling industry.

“The amount of money they are earning off these machines is obscene. If anybody’s son is playing on one of these machines they need to get them off it as soon as possible.”

Bailey was sentenced to four years in jail and ordered to pay £120 victim surcharge.