An armed robber has walked free from prison after raiding a corner shop with a shotgun to pay off drug debts.

Tristan Bassett, 20, had been bundled into a car, assaulted and threatened with having his family’s home burnt down before he was then given a shotgun and ordered by his dealers to raid a convenience store to get the money he owed them.

Bassett was dropped at Maresfield Village Stores in Straight Half Mile, Uckfield. He went in to buy a drink before going back to demand money from the till.

When shopkeeper Usha Patel refused, he started heading towards the door connecting the shop to the flat where her eight-year-old son was watching TV.

A terrified Mrs Patel shouted for help and tried to leave the store, before a struggle in which she was pushed to the floor. She then saw the butt of a gun in Bassett’s trousers.

She fled the store and ran to the nearest car but the driver would not help her.

Mrs Patel than ran to her neighbour across the road, who chased the robber and tackled him to the ground.

While he was being restrained, Mrs Patel recovered the £145 cash and lottery tickets stolen from her.

Police were called and found Bassett had a bolt shotgun in his trousers. He was arrested and remained in custody for five months.

At a sentencing hearing at Hove Crown Court, Jonathan Edwards, prosecuting, said: “Mrs Patel said she suffered pain from what happened to her in the shop.

“She said she was scared following the incident as her husband had been visiting India and would not be back for a week.”

James Partridge, defending, told the court that although the robbery was not under duress – the drug dealers remained nearby but not in sight of the shop – it amounted to exceptional circumstances.

He said Bassett, who appeared in court via video link from prison, should be dealt with leniently. He said: “He used cannabis and alcohol in the past as a crutch for him which made his situation worst.

“He ended up in a situation where he owed money for drugs. On October 21 he encountered the men and was bundled in the car.

“The gun was something given to him to carry out the robbery and he did not take it out.”

Bassett, of Barlow Place, Hailsham, pleaded guilty to robbery and possession of a firearm.

Judge David Rennie accepted the case had exceptional circumstances, allowing him not to impose the minimum sentence of five years for firearms offences.

He said: “It was your fault you got into debt, but nothing would prepare you for the situation you were forced into by the individuals who saw it as a way to get their money back. Yes you could have run away when they car drove off, but I understand you were unable to do so, governed by fear.”

He called Mrs Patel a “brave woman”.

He sentenced Bassett to two years imprisonment on both counts suspended for two years to run concurrently, releasing him from custody. He was also sentenced to 300 hours’ unpaid work in the community and 30 rehabilitation activity sessions.