Manchester

Man spared jail after driving at Manchester Airport parking official

Graham Benbow Image copyright Cavendish Press
Image caption Graham Benbow was given a six-month sentence, suspended for two years

A teacher who drove at a Manchester Airport parking official in a row over drop-off costs has been spared jail by a judge who said the fee was "unjust".

Graham Benbow, 55, of Stockton Heath, was given a six-month suspended sentence after admitting dangerous driving at Manchester Crown Court.

Judge Bernard Lever described the drop-off fees as an "absolute disgrace".

Manchester Airport said the judge was "irresponsible" and the outcome showed "complete disregard" for its staff.

The court heard the parking attendant ended up on the car bonnet and was driven along a road for several hundred yards when he tried to stop Benbow leaving.

Benbow had refused to pay the fee - £3 for five minutes or £4 for 10 minutes - and said there were no clear signs indicating that he should.

He reversed his car to look at the signs but then drove towards one of the barriers when he noticed it was open.

The staff member placed himself against the barrier to stop him, but Benbow continued, the prosecution said.

The employee ended up on the bonnet and Benbow drove with him over a roundabout and stopped just before the motorway, the court heard.

Although unhurt, the complainant said he had "feared for his life".

The row happened on 23 July, less than two weeks after charges were introduced.

Image copyright Cavendish Press
Image caption Judge Bernard Lever said the incident was "totally out of character"

The judge said it was "no excuse" for dangerous driving but he thought it was an "absolute disgrace that people cannot deliver people to airports without paying an extraordinary amount".

"Whilst I am 100% against your behaviour and losing self control, I am 100% against the airport behaving in this manner against people who have no or little choice at dropping their families at the airport in this way," he said.

The judge continued: "I have to make it clear to everyone that they must not lose their temper. That does not detract from the fact that this was very dangerous driving and what you did was very reckless and dangerous."

The sentence for Benbow, who works at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, was suspended for two years.

A spokesman for the airport said it was "deeply concerned".

"Anyone who has experienced an attack of this nature would be appalled by the judge's comments and attitude towards determining a suitable punishment for criminal driving," he said.

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