The two men carried out a series of raids in which one of them pretended to be a customer being held at knifepoint by the other bandit, the court heard.
The 'hostage', James Macdonald, and his accomplice William Shoesmith, both unemployed and from Deptford, south-east London, were jailed for five years after pleading guilty to making unwarranted demands for money.
Macdonald, 26, was ordered to pay compensation of pounds 550, the sum found on him when he was arrested. He was said to have told police that he had no recollection of one hold-up in which he and his accomplice escaped with pounds 2,330.
John Ryder, for the defence, said: 'He took a colossal amount of alcohol. He was so drunk he collapsed outside the bank. He had to be picked up and carried in so the robbery could be committed.'
The court heard that Macdonald and Shoesmith, also 26, both hated violence and did not want to harm anyone in the raids. Macdonald would pretend to be a customer and then be taken hostage by Shoesmith. Pressing a carving knife to his friend's throat Shoesmith would demand money from staff.
The pair, both heroin addicts, used the ploy four times until Macdonald was identified in the street and arrested.
Shoesmith then persuaded a neighbour to act as a fake hostage in a hold-up before he too was apprehended.
A total of pounds 7,669 was taken from three banks and two building societies in the Greenwich area of south-east London.Reuse content