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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 19:09 GMT
Sheriff's disbelief at mercy plea
Aberdeen Sheriff Court
Dukes was disgusted with himself, the court was told
A sheriff has said it "beggars belief" that a social worker recommended probation for an armed robber who attacked two women in Aberdeen.

Charles Dukes, 29, admitted being armed with a fishing knife when he attacked the women aged 69 and 74, who were both left injured.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard that a passing driver came to their aid and pinned Dukes down until police arrived.

Dukes, who stole 15 in the attack, was jailed for four years and three months.

Sheriff Graeme Buchanan issued the rebuke over the social worker's recommendation.

He told the court: "It just beggars belief that for an offence as serious as this, a social worker should recommend a probation order.

Behaviour like this just can't be tolerated
Sheriff Graeme Buchanan

"To attack two elderly ladies who are going out for a pleasant evening, parked in their car at the side of the road, is just unbelievable."

The two women were on their way to a night out and were sitting in a car in Balgownie Road when Dukes struck. He pulled open the door and demanded money.

During the resulting struggle, Dukes waved the knife around and slashed the 74-year-old's hand, cut her friend and hit her on the nose.

Dukes, who was wearing a hooded top, was caught by a passing motorist as he tried to get away with a handbag. He pinned him down with the help of another passer-by until police arrived.

Drugs use

The court heard the two women were left shocked and were taken to hospital by ambulance to be treated for cuts after the incident on 15 August, 2005.

When interviewed by police, Dukes - who admitted assault and robbery - said he did it because he had "huge debts" - but he only got 15 and some bank cards, which were recovered.

Defence agent Les Green said: "It was an act of desperation. He really is shocked at his behaviour - I don't think there's anyone in this court as disgusted as Mr Dukes himself."

High Court

The court heard that he had a page-and-a-half of previous convictions including assault, drugs misuse, possession of an offensive weapon and motoring offences.

Sheriff Buchanan noted: "The court has to make it absolutely clear that behaviour of this kind will be severely dealt with. Behaviour like this just can't be tolerated.

"Only a custodial sentence is appropriate because of the serious nature of this offence."

The sheriff said he had considered referring the case to the High Court for sentencing because the jail term a sheriff can impose is limited.

But the early plea entered by Dukes earned him a 30% discount on the six-year sentence he could have received, bringing it within a sheriff's powers to sentence him.

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