A CONVICTED armed robber was given a last chance to avoid prison after failing to show up for community service.

Tristan Bassett raided the Maresfield Village Store with a shotgun in his trousers because he owed money to drug dealers.

They had threatened to firebomb his house and kill his sister over the money he owed them. So he was bundled into a car, given a gun, and told to rob the shop in October 2017.

Bassett, then aged 19, demanded money from the till, but shopkeeper Usha Patel refused.

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

Judge David Rennie accepted the case had exceptional circumstances and imposed a two-year suspended prison sentence, with 300 hours of unpaid work and 30 rehabilitation sessions with the Positive Futures Programme. But last week, Bassett, now 22, appeared back before the judge at Hove Crown Court after failing to attend the unpaid work days.

Andrew Stephens, prosecuting, said Bassett has only completed 37 hours of unpaid work in the past year, leaving 263 hours outstanding. He said the probation have had no contact with him since April, and believed all options had been exhausted.

Mr Stephens said: “Mrs Patel had no physical injuries, but was caused distress and anxiety. The basis of plea was accepted that the defendant had been armed but had not brandished the weapon. A gun was given to him by two men to pay off his drug debt. The defendant thought his mother and sister would be stabbed and his home firebombed.”

A warrant for Bassett’s arrest was issued in April.

In court last week, Charlotte Morrish said her client had a troubled history but has been trying to turn his life around recently by getting YMCA accommodation and a new job.

Judge Rennie invited a tearful Bassett into the witness box to explain why he should be allowed to continue with unpaid work, despite being brought before the courts for breaches in November and February, and most recently in April. Bassett, formerly of Hailsham, said: “I messed up, I know I have messed up badly. All I can do is apologise.”

Judge Rennie said: “If we meet again, you will be sending yourself to prison.”