Stephen Fox, a 49-year-old Hertfordshire insurance broker, had something very wrong with his moral compass. That defective compass, and the misdirected actions to which it led him, have just landed Fox with a four-year prison sentence – and publicly exposed him as the very rottenest of rotten eggs. But did Our Maker make Fox evil, did he always have a rotten heart – or did something turn him along the way? Bankstone News investigates.

Fox was the trusted lieutenant of Stephen Stoddart, the founder, back in 1973, of Tring-based broker S J Stoddart. After joining the business in 1988, Fox worked his way up through the firm, becoming a director and the heir presumptive to Mr Stoddart who treated Fox like one of the family.

But after Stoddart was diagnosed with what would turn out to be a fatal cancer in January 2014, and handed day-to-day running of the firm over to Fox, the latter took the opportunity to divert their customers’ premium payments into his own account to the tune of £273,000 over a ten-month period.

Why would someone so grossly abuse the trust placed in him by his dying patron, friend, and mentor? What was he doing with all that money? The latter question is easily answered: he was sitting up all hours in his underpants in front of his home computer, swilling hard liquor and clicking his way through his own and other people’s money on grubby little online gambling sites.

Was that what ultimately robbed Mr Fox of his moral bearings? Would something else, sooner or later, have blown him off course if online gambling hadn’t got there first? Maybe. Maybe not.

Alcohol may be a pernicious temptation for creatures with a predisposition to addiction (human beings, for example); but unless you’re specifically addicted to the very finest wines available to humanity, it generally won’t shunt you too far down the road to a life of larceny. Fox’s known fondness for a tipple or two (or possibly twenty two) cannot alone account for the frantic spree of pillage on which he embarked.

That would take something with a heftier price tag than supermarket value vodka. Something like recreational drugs, for example. But Fox was no druggy. Then, how about Bet 365, a 24/7 virtual world where vast sums of money buy you nothing more than some dancing pixels and the vain hoping of one day winning back some of the thousands you’ve p*ssed away. Yes, that would do it – and did it, indeed, it seems, for Mr Fox.

However nannyish they’ve lately become about fags, HMG, thank goodness, is not about to outlaw gambling ads on telly. Just as well, because – without them, CMCs and the pay-day lenders – there’d be nothing to break up the monotony of day-time TV.

Just because something ruins the lives of those it gets its claws into and those (those like Mr Stoddart, his unfortunate widow and all S J Stoddart’s uninsured customers) who get in their way, there’s no reason to go around creating impediments to its vigorous promotion to persons of all ages and persuasions through all available media.

Hopefully, this same enlightened attitude will soon be extended to other pastimes, which, provided you partake in them responsibly, are really just a bit of harmless fun.

Coming soon to a TV screen near you…

Me and my mates, we love a bit of recreational drug use. We’re a regular bunch of likeable lads, every one of us a bit of character. There’s this guy: THE STONER. He likes his drugs the way The Lord made them. Weed would be his middle name – if it wasn’t already Brendan. And here’s Dave. We call him THE HORSE, because a hefty dose of Ketamine’s the only thing that keeps this guy tranquil! Then there’s EASY ED. It takes a lot to bring him down. It’s MDMA all the way for EASY ED. What a guy! And what about this bloke. It’s SAMMY SMACK’ED. He’ll do anything to get his next fix. And we do mean anything. Ha ha! And then there’s WHITE LINES WILLY. A rolled-up fiver and a baggy of finest Colombian baking soda and there’s no shutting this fool up! Together, we are the smokers, the snorters, the mainline marauders. Chasing after dragons, robbing people’s houses, dreaming the impossible dream. We are the dope fiends. And this, my friends, this is THE DRUG LIFE!



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