Jail for speeding Colchester motorist who narrowly missed party of schoolchildren

Ipswich Crown Court Picture: ARCHANT

Ipswich Crown Court Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: ARCHANT

A speeding motorist who was behind the wheel of a stolen car when he narrowly missed a group of schoolchildren doing their cycle proficiency test has been jailed for 12 months.

Sentencing 25-year-old Ben Barnham, Judge Martyn Levett said that a teacher who was with the group of 11 nine and ten-year-olds had described the stolen Peugeot as travelling at 40-50 mph when it passed just a metre away from the youngsters.

"She was concerned for their safety as she heard squealing and screeching as the car accelerated," said the judge.

One of the children, who were all wearing high visibility jackets, was about to perform a U-turn and was told by his teacher to stop and wait because she was concerned for his safety.

Barnham, of Berechurch Road, Colchester, admitted dangerous driving on Conifer Close and Blackthorn Avenue and in addition to being jailed he was banned from driving for 30 months.

He had denied dangerous driving and his trial was due to start on Thursday (May 23).

However, he had refused to leave Chelmsford prison and Judge Levett contacted the prison governor to request that Barnham be brought to court.

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Barnham had eventually agreed to attend court voluntarily and following discussions with his barrister on his arrival he changed his plea to the dangerous driving charge to guilty.

Daniel Taylor, prosecuting, said the Peugeot had been stolen from an address in Colchester on November 29 last year and at 2.30pm on December 5 police officers had spotted the car, which was displaying false number plates, in the town and had followed it.

The officers requested assistance to help them stop the vehicle and they had followed it to Jasmine Close in the Greenstead Estate where it came to a stop.

The officers were sitting in their stationary car when they saw the group of children doing their cycle proficiency test and were about to get out of their car when they heard the engine of the Peugeot being revved.

The car had then accelerated towards the unmarked police car before mounting the kerb and driving over a small green area before disappearing out of sight.

A witness described the car as passing just a car's width from the schoolchildren while their teacher said the distance was a metre.

Karl Volz, for Barnham, said the teacher with the children had said none of the youngsters had been distressed or in fear for their lives during the incident.

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