A MAN who robbed three service stations in 24 hours after doctors refused to section him has failed to get a reduction in his five-year prison term.

Stephen John Holt, 30, of The Dene, Beardwood, in Blackburn, admitted three robberies in the town last November after falling into a deep depression following his father's death.

He was jailed at Preston Crown Court in March and today, in a hearing at London's Criminal Appeal Court, the tough sentences were upheld.

Mr Justice Jack, who sat today with Lord Justice May and Mr Justice Simon, said Holt's crimes had been a "cry for help" rather than for gain or to feed an addiction.

He said Holt's father had died in August of last year, causing his psychological problems and difficulties with alcohol to grow out of control.

The day before the robberies, he visited his doctor and, claiming he had attempted to hang himself, asked to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

But, despite being seen by expert counsellors, he was not hospitalised, and went on to commit the offences at the Total Service Station, Preston New Road the Windmill Service Station, Preston New Road, and Jans service station, Furthergate.>

In each case, he walked into a service station and threatened the cashier with a hammer, demanding between £50 and £100.

Sentencing him, the Crown Court judge said an appropriate sentence without the benefit of a guilty plea would have been seven-and-a-half years because workers providing a public service, particularly late at night, needed to be protected by the law.

Today, Holt's counsel, Charles Brown, argued that the sentences imposed were excessive, since they suggested that his offences were some of the most serious of their kind.

But dismissing the appeal, the judge said it was the fact that three robberies had been committed in such a short period of time that necessitated such a stern penalty.

He said: "In our view, the judge properly took account of all the factors in this particular case and arrived at sentences which should not be criticised."