TWO MEN who robbed a vape shop brandishing a knife and screwdriver were spared jail because of their learning difficulties.

James Sutherland, 33, and Luke Tucker, 21, burst into the Vapestyle shop in Crowborough wearing makeshift masks.

A woman who was a customer in the shop at the time was terrified and in tears.

Shopkeeper Lee Silver at first asked the men if it was a “wind up” then asked if it was worth it.

The men responded by demanding cash and goods from the shop be put into a bag.

“Don’t come near me or I will shank you,” one of the men said.

They took about £1,750 worth of equipment from the vape shop, including £250 from the till.

At Lewes Crown Court both men admitted the robbery on January 10 last year.

They were spared a prison spell because of their learning difficulties, and were instead given a 15-month suspended sentence.

Abigail Husbands, prosecuting, said both men had denied being involved, but staff at a residential care home where they live noticed both men were missing at the time of the robbery.

Then one of the men was found to be in possession of items stolen from the shop.

Sutherland was a regular customer of a different Vape shop, and told a shopkeeper there that he had been involved in the robbery.

The confession was recorded on video as the shop’s CCTV cameras also have sound recording.

Tucker claimed he had been “roped in” on the idea at the last minute.

Ross Talbott, defending, said both men “apologised to the victims of their offences”.

They both have issues with cognitive functions and require care.

Tucker has developmental issues, autism, tourettes and attention, deficit and hyperactive disorder (ADHD).

Sutherland suffered a brain injury and suffers issues with memory loss and epilepsy.

Judge Jeremy Gold QC said: “You have both committed a serious offence that caused a great deal of fear, not only to the proprietor but also to a customer.

“In normal circumstances, people who commit offences of this kind go straight to prison. But your case is exceptional. You both have significant medical difficulties. It would be disproportionate to send you both to prison.

“But I am concerned that both of you clearly understand that there comes a time when even people with disabilities have to be sentenced to prison for the safety of the public.

“In this case I’m prepared to accept that this was a ridiculous enterprise. But if it were to happen again, no judge would have any choice but to send you both to prison.

The two men, of Crowborough, were ordered to pay £480 in compensation and complete 25 rehabilitation sessions.