Kent & Sussex: Armed robber stole to pay for drug treatment
A career bank robber was jailed for life after he admitted a string of armed raids in West Kent and East Sussex to pay for private drug rehabilitation treatment.
Terence Stone, 37, claimed he fell back into heroin addiction after the Home Office cut funding from a drug programme run by the Church of Scientology.
Stone robbed half a dozen banks, building societies and post offices last year collecting over £21,000 to pay for treatment in private clinics.
Now a member of the cult he claims that the church's Narcanon programme was the only thing that ever worked for him during his last spell behind bars.
But the treatment was withdrawn due to lack of funding and he soon fell back into heroin upon release.
Stone was finally snared without any shots being fired as a pursuing police officer felled him with a well-aimed swing of his police car door.
James Lofthouse, prosecuting, told the court how on March 2, 2000 Stone robbed Lloyds Bank, Orpington at 1.50pm. The "agitated and excitable" crook brandished a pistol at cashier Elaine Cheeseman, the court heard. Stone escaped with £1,940 in cash.
In another lunchtime raid on Lloyds Bank, this time in Southborough, three months later on June 19 Stone held up teller Inci Patel. Stone made off with £2,500.
Then on July 17, Stone struck again at a sub-post office in Goudhurst. He pointed a black handgun at Gordon Tottey, behind the counter, and ordered him to hand over the cash.
To show he was not to be crossed he added: "or I hurt the lady", pointing to a female pensioner.
But the sub-postmaster pressed an alarm switch, and then chased Stone out of the shop. But Stone did not realise undercover police had been pursuing him.
Mr Lofthouse added: "Officers in position drove by and one of the officers opened his car door, striking Mr Stone, which knocked him to the ground."
Stone later confessed to four other offences. Armed with a gun on January 25 last year he robbed Thomas Cook, Tunbridge Wells, of £2,500 after passing a demand note to staff.
At HSBC bank in Chislehurst, Kent again using a menacing note, Stone pocketed £3,500.
And on March 2, just minutes before the raid on Lloyd's Bank in Orpington, it was revealed Stone had unsuccessfully tried to raid a branch of the Going Places travel agent.
A week later, on March 9, at the Alliance & Leicester in Crowborough, Stone netted his biggest haul - £10,700. Stone had been caged on July 5, 1994 at Maidstone Crown Court for three robberies with firearms "using very much the same methods" as in his latest raids.
His barrister Ben Hargreaves said Stone's need for the cash would have been "Farcical if it had not been so serious. Mr Stone spent thousands of pounds in private rehab centres to rid himself of his drug habit. "He had to pay huge sums of money to attend them. He got that money by committing robberies. It was a vicious circle he found himself in that he found he could not break."
A "ray of light" came from a drug rehab project run by the Scientologists - Narcanon.
But during his recent period inside, the Home Office cut funding for the project and Stone became hooked on heroin again. Shortly after his release from jail, Stone started robbing banks again to pay to cure himself of heroin.
Mr Hargreaves urged the judge to keep the sentence "in single figures" and said: "It does seem clear that if he was allowed to carry on with that system, and allowed the help he so obviously needed, he would not appear before you today."
Sentencing Judge John Reid, QC, told him: "It appears you were a drug addict and wished to accumulate money for the purpose of receiving treatment. "You were deprived of the assistance which the Church of Scientology could have given you".
But the judge said he had to sentence Stone to life under the so-called "two strikes and you're out rule."
He added that it will be at least seven years before Stone could be considered for release by the parole board. The effect of the legislation is that the sentence brought will have to be one of life imprisonment."
If released, Stone will be on licence for the rest of his life, and his liberty can be withdrawn if the parole board or home secretary requires it.
Stone was sentenced to concurrent life sentences for the three robberies on March 2, June 19 and July 17, 2000 and for two counts of carrying an imitation firearm with intent.
Stone of Crofton Lane, Orpington, smirked as he was sent down.
After the hearing, Narcanon Trustee Sheila MacLean told the Courier: "Terence Stone learned of the Narconon drug rehabilitation method - a secular programme developed by humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard - and was making good progress on the programme before it came to light that he had committed criminal offences that needed to be put to rights.
"Sadly, he was unable to continue on the rehabilitation programme, as he had been able to complete it whilst in prison, statistics show that he is unlikely to have reverted to either drugs or crime. "Independent examination of the Narconon programme's results have shown a 70 per cent full success rate in terms of no further drug use, acknowledged as far superior to results of any other programme.