Gunman jailed for violent gaming heists

A gunman in a gang of armed robbers who terrorised people at gaming venues across Melbourne’s northern suburbs has been sentenced to eight years and 10 months in jail.

Ariki Julian, 20, will not be eligible for parole for the next five years and 10 months after he pleaded guilty to his part in armed robberies at five licensed venues between July and November 2011.

The County Court heard on Thursday that Julian’s gang hit one venue – the Lalor Bowling Club – twice in four months, during which the same woman was twice threatened with a gun.

The club was also robbed by another gang during this period, the court heard.

The court heard that Julian and his accomplices also tried robbing another venue, but were foiled when an elderly man saw the bandits coming and stood in their way at the doors, which prompted the bandits to run away.

Eight people had victim-impact statements read to the court, in which they spoke of suffering fear, anxiety, loss of confidence and security in the aftermath of the robberies. Some also experienced relationship problems.

Judge Michael Bourke described the burglaries as “violent, terrifying and disturbingly anti-social”, which had attacked the safety and well-being of people who had no choice but to be involved.

The court heard that Julian’s gang reaped between $500 and $5000 during each of their raids, and that four other people were arrested by police assigned to taskforce Sampson, which was established to focus on a spate of armed robberies in the northern suburbs. One of Julian’s co-accused will be sentenced on Friday.

Julian also pleaded guilty to charges of stealing cars, the theft of firearms from a farm in Lake Bolac, in western Victoria, and one count of indecent assault.

Judge Bourke said he took no pleasure from sentencing someone so young and acknowledged that Julian had endured an abusive childhood in his native New Zealand, was exposed to a criminal culture by his stepfather and had a long criminal history as a teenager.

He said Julian moved to Australia when he was 15 to move in with his older sister, and for some time lived a law-abiding life, until he drifted into using the drug methamphetamine.

Judge Bourke said Julian’s lack of education – he left school when he was 12 – had contributed to a low intellectual capacity. He said it was difficult to be optimistic towards Julian rehabilitating and told him it would depend on whether he could break his drug habit and end his involvement with other criminals.

Upon being led into custody, Julian showed a clenched fist to his supporters in court.

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