Ipswich bank prank customer who told cashier to hand over money given suspended jail term

Customer spared jail

Customer spared jail - Credit: PA

A man who told a building society cashier to hand over money while pointing what turned out to be a rolled newspaper under his coat at her has been given a suspended prison sentence for what was described as “a joke that hideously backfired.”

Malcolm Smith went into the Ipswich town centre branch of the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society branch on June 13 last year to withdraw money from his account after being released from prison the previous day, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

He did not have the necessary identification with him and was turned away and had returned two days later, said James Onalaja, prosecuting.

On that occasion Smith approached a cashier, who recognised him from his earlier visit, and “calmly and quietly” told her: “Don’t panic and don’t look down.”

The cashier then noticed that Smith had his hand under his jacket and it appeared to her that something was pointing at her from under the jacket, said Mr Onalaja.

Smith said: “Give me your money from the till” and the cashier believed this was a threat and had “frozen”, said Mr Onalaja.

Smith had pulled out a rolled-up paper from under his jacket and had asked if he could change his address.

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The cashier asked if he’d been joking when he made his earlier comments and Smith replied: “You didn’t give me the money. I thought you knew I was joking.”

She asked him to leave and the cashier, who was heavily pregnant, had broken down in tears when she told colleagues what had happened.

Smith, 58, who was living in a probation hostel in Ipswich, denied attempted robbery, but admitted affray.

The attempted robbery charge was left on the court file.

Sentencing Smith to a 12-week jail term, suspended for 12 months, Judge David Goodin said if what Smith had done was “a misplaced prank” it had caused considerable alarm to the cashier.

He said Smith had been in custody for 13 months after being recalled on licence for the sentence he had been released from a few days before he went to the building society.

Steven Dyble, for Smith, said his client had been frustrated at not being able to withdraw money from his account as a result of his bank card and documentation going missing from his accommodation while he was in prison.

He said Smith had told the cashier that what he said to her was a joke and she had smiled.

“Not even she was sure if he was serious,” said Mr Dyble.

He said Smith had returned to the building society branch later the same day and had been asked to leave and had returned two days later because he still had not been able to access his money.

He described what Smith had done as “an act of gross stupidity”.

“This was a joke that hideously backfired,” said Mr Dyble.

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