Sending a north-east prisoner to jail for a lengthy period would be a “death sentence”, a sheriff has said, amid allegations he is being denied vital anti-cancer drugs.
Michael Nicol has been held at HMP Grampian since November, when he staged a £2,700 raid on an Aberdeen supermarket with two other men.
The 40-year-old had been diagnosed with a form of breast cancer and claims he carried out the robbery in the hope of securing a prison sentence to bring some stability back to his life.
He was caught after “deliberately” showing his face to a security camera, so police knew he was responsible.
Nicol appeared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court yesterday where he pleaded guilty to theft by housebreaking. He is now awaiting sentencing.
But the court heard that Nicol is currently being refused access to the cancer medication he was prescribed, leading to concerns about the appropriate punishment.
Sheriff Graeme Napier said: “If I’m sentencing him to custody, I’m sentencing him to death. I don’t want to do that.”
Fiscal depute Katy Begg explained the alarm had been raised at Sainsbury’s Local on Aberdeen’s Rosemount Place just after 2.20am on November 24 last year.
The three men had forced open the shop’s fire exit, with Nicol and one other heading inside where they stuffed almost £2,700 of cigarettes into pillowcases.
During the raid Nicol’s hood slipped down, briefly revealing his identity to security cameras.
Police raided his home and car the following day and found around one-third of the stolen goods, together with pillowcases matching those used in the heist.
Nicol, who has an “unenviable” criminal record, has been held in custody ever since, pending the outcome of this court case.
His solicitor, Kevin Longino, said: “About two months before this offence he was diagnosed with a form of breast cancer and started on medication for that.
“He wasn’t coping and he committed this offence to get caught and go back to a structured and familiar environment to him.
“He may have deliberately removed the mask.”
Mr Longino added that Nicol had been prescribed anti-cancer medication by doctors at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary but, since his arrest, the prison service has “point blank” refused to give it to him.
Sheriff Napier said: “I want to know from the prison authorities if there is justification for him not receiving a prescription that he medically needs.”
A sentencing date for Nicol will be set later this week.