Schizophrenic man convicted of attempted robberies to be held in secure hospital (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Schizophrenic man convicted of attempted robberies to be held in secure hospital
A SCHIZOPHRENIC who tried to rob a train conductor and then a supermarket within minutes will be held in a secure hospital until doctors agree he is fit to be freed.
Norman Johnston was told by a judge at Teesside Crown Court today that he will be released from the unit only when he is no longer considered to be a danger to the public.
The move comes after Johnston was convicted on “compelling evidence” of two attempted robberies and charges of possessing a bladed article following a trial in June.
He denied the offences despite being captured on closed circuit television at the scenes of both crimes and being arrested near the store – still carrying the knife he used.
The judge, Recorder Tim Gittens, said the 35-year-old had terrified the staff in Sainsbury's in Middlesbrough, and their trauma was clear when they had to give evidence.
During the trial, the jury saw the CCTV pictures which tracked Johnston's movements from the town's train station to the supermarket, and to his eventual arrest nearby.
Train conductor Paul Carress told the court how a knife-wielding assailant matching Johnston's description demanded money from him on February 29, but he pushed him away.
A man fitting the same description tried to hold the store minutes later, but again ran off when he was challenged. He was followed by a security guard until his arrest at a taxi rank.
Mr Recorder Gittens told Johnston, of Stump Cross, Guisborough , east Cleveland: “The trial heard compelling evidence in relation to these offences . . . these are serious offences.
“It left all the people who witnessed your behaviour extremely frightened, and, having to relive it, shocked by your actions. It was fairly obvious it was a traumatic experience.”
Psychiatrist Philip Brown told the court that medics are optimistic about Johnston's treatment being successful, but said the public needs to be protected from serious harm in the meantime.
The court heard how he was jailed for three years in 2006 for an aggravated burglary involving weapons, and has been violent to staff at the hospitals where he has been treated.