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Monday, August 29, 2011

By Daily Mail Reporter

By Daily Mail Reporter Image
A respected Archdruid walked free from court today after being cleared of fraudulently claiming more than lb40,000 in benefits.

Self-styled 'Keeper of the Stones' Terry Dobney, 62, was alleged to have claimed income support despite having up to lb30,000 in savings which he failed to declare.

The bearded Druid leads the annual Summer Solstice celebrations by the pre-historic Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire, as well as performing handfastings, marriages and other ceremonies.A jury found Dobney not guilty of three charges of false representation to gain benefits and exemption of liability following a three-day trial at Salisbury Crown Court.

They accepted his claim that the cash was collecter for his elderly mother and acquitted him on a majority verdict.

The emotional Druid, who has long flowing brown hair, a thick chest-length curly grey beard and walks with a wooden staff, was told he was able to leave the dock a free man by Judge John Dixon.Dressed in a brown coat and green cord trousers, Dobney wore his trademark tweed cap with a pheasant feather - but left his flowing druid robes at home.

Speaking outside court, he said: 'Truth, honour and justice has prevailed.

'It was my mother's money - she was an old woman living on very little. If a son had money - why wouldn't he give some of it to her?

'I have had 23 operations on my legs and I was fully entitled to the benefits I was getting.

'I was confident in my beliefs - although I appreciated one or two people would be against me - and I have been fully vindicated.

Ritual: Dobney leads the annual Summer Solstice celebrations by the pre-historic Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire

'It was just a shame that my mother's name had to be brought into all this.'

The prosecution claimed he banked lb32,183.47 in income support and lb8,143.87 in council tax, taking his total fraud to lb40,337.44 between 2000 and 2008.

Dobney, of West Kennett, Wiltshire, told the trial he was planning to use the money to buy a new thatched roof for his Grade II listed property.

The Druid has been a regular at the famous Avebury stones for the summer solstice festivities since 1969 - gradually becoming more involved in the ceremonies each year.

He is now 'keeper of the stones' at the ancient Pagan ritual - which celebrates the shortest night and the longest day.Hundreds of revellers flocking to the site each year to watch him lead the celebrations.

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