Dangerous driver’s jail term judged ‘excessive’ after appeal

The High Court in London. Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

The High Court in London. Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

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A dangerous driver from Lancaster who put his wife and others through a ‘terrifying ordeal’ has had his jail term slashed by top judges on appeal.

Howard Barker, 25, of Edenvale Road, was locked up for three years and two months at Preston Crown Court on February 19.

His marriage to Zoe Barker had hit difficulties and, on October 25 last year, she left him and went to stay with a friend, Judge Peter Rook QC told London’s Appeal Court.

Mrs Barker later returned to the marital home, with her friend and her friend’s children in the car, to collect some items. As they pulled up they saw Barker.

He shouted at his wife to get out, kicked off a wing mirror of the car and pulled off the windscreen wipers.

The children started crying and their mother tried to drive away, but Barker responded by kicking off the other wing mirror.

He then used his BMW to force the car to stop and continued shouting and swearing.

A police officer spotted the BMW and Barker sped up to 80mph in a 50mph zone.

The squad car’s siren and lights were switched on, but Barker raced off at up to 120mph and the officer eventually slowed down to avoid an accident.

Barker was arrested days later. He admitted affray, dangerous driving and damaging property.

As well as the jail term, he was disqualified from driving for 12 months and must pass an extended driving test before getting back behind the wheel.

He had appeared before the courts on six previous occasions for crimes including threatening behaviour, burglary, drug possession, battery and handling stolen goods.

Barker’s lawyers nevertheless argued his jail term was far too tough.

Judge Rook said it was a ‘grave example’ of affray and Barker had put the occupants of the car through a ‘terrifying ordeal’.

“They must have expected extreme violence,” he added.

It was only ‘good fortune’ that nobody was injured by his foolhardy driving.

However the judge, sitting with Lord Justice McCombe and Mr Justice Foskett, in the end agreed the sentence was ‘manifestly excessive’.

The court reduced Barker’s jail term by eight months, to two and a half years.