AN ARMED robber was released from a mental health hospital just hours before he held a worker at knife point, a court heard.

Mark Dolan was a patient at Roseberry Park Hospital for two weeks before he robbed a Stockton bookies and demanded money whilst armed with a four-inch kitchen knife.

The 37-year-old walked “calmly” into the shop with his face covered and forced the female employee to hand over £175 cash before brandishing the weapon.

Teesside Crown Court heard Dolan, who suffers from psychotic episodes, has previously been convicted for threatening others, including his girlfriend and mother, with knives.

He was admitted to the Middlesbrough mental health facility in August 2018 and was “wrongly” released the following month – but Judge Howard Crowson disagreed the crime was connected to Dolan’s mental illness and sentenced him to three years in prison.

He said: “There have been doctor reports but I’m afraid I do not agree with them. The doctor said the offence was connected to your mental illness and it is unlikely you will commit an offence like this again. But he had not seen the details of your previous offending.

“My judgement is that it is a high culpability case. I accept you are someone who had suffered with mental health over the years but you were released from Rosberry Park Hospital that day because you were fit from release. It is clear you need treatment, you have a condition which requires care but it does not seem reasonable that they may have been wrong about that.”

Jenny Haigh, prosecuting, said Dolan walked “calmly” into Coral Bookmakers in Stockton in September last year but pulled out a four-inch knife after demanding money.

She said: “A female employee was working that evening and the defendant walked into the shop. He walked up to the counter and threw a green shopping bag at her. He said ‘put all of your notes in here’.

“He then pulled out a knife. It was black and with a four-inch blade. She put the money in the bag and he calmly walked out. He wore a jacket pulled over his face and his hood was up.

“The victim said she was left scared, frightened and angry at the same time. Since she has had sleepless nights, felt nervous when home alone and had to force herself to go back to work.”

She added six years ago Dolan called the police telling them he was going to kill his girlfriend but on arrival turned the kitchen knife of himself and then his mother, who tried to calm him down.

On another occasion he threatened a landlord with a bottle and knife and later stole from a corner sharp whilst armed with a kitchen knife.

But Stephen Constantine, defending, said Dolan has been suffering from psychotic episodes for several years and argued the hospital was wrong to release him on September 10 – the same day as the armed robbery.

He said: “It cannot be a coincidence he committed this type of offence immediately after being released from hospital. Experience shows up hospitals can get it wrong and it is my submission that’s what has happened.

“He believed he had to carry a knife to protect himself from the voices he was hearing. I do not know if a full analysis of this young man has been done. There are features of the defendant’s personality which enable him to be described as particularly vulnerable.”

He added Dolan was readmitted to Roseberry Park Hospital 10 days after the crime and later tried to take his own life.

Dolan, of Runnymede Close, Stockton, was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to robbery and possession of an offensive weapon.