‘Smirking’ road rage menace jailed

Christopher Thwaites has been jailed for three-and-a-half years and banned from driving for seven years.
Christopher Thwaites has been jailed for three-and-a-half years and banned from driving for seven years.

A reckless road menace who terrorised other motorists and even police officers with a series of shocking driving antics has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Christopher Thwaites, 24, of Sharow, near Ripon, put drivers in fear for their lives and drove straight at a parked police van as he lurched from one road-rage incident to another in a catalogue of terrifying incidents last year, a court heard.

The first involved an unsuspecting female horse rider, who was riding along Ripon Road, near Pateley Bridge, when Thwaites whizzed past in the middle of the road, causing the terrified horse to jump.

Thwaites then performed a handbrake turn at the next junction and screeched the car to a halt. He got out and began screaming at the woman, hurling a torrent of insults at her with his hands raised.

Barrister Peter Sabiston, prosecuting at York Crown Court, said the rider – who was “frightened to death” – encountered Thwaites again a short time later, when he stood on top of his MG 200, waving his hands around and shouting vicious insults at her.

“He then came towards her, throwing stones at her and the horse,” said Mr Sabiston. “She was in tears.”

Police served Thwaites with a notice of intended prosecution but just five days later, on May 20, he was on the rampage again on the same stretch of road where he found himself stuck in a queue of slow-moving traffic in his MG.

Enraged by the delay, Thwaites began overtaking the queue of traffic, forcing motorists to take evasive action and brake sharply to let him through without crashing into bollards.

Having barely made it through without causing a serious accident, Thwaites did a U-turn and stopped his car before driving back towards one of the vehicles – inside which was a grandmother and a child. The panic-stricken woman had to swerve to avoid a collision.

“The defendant was smirking at her as he drove past, thinking it was humorous to cause her terror,” said Mr Sabiston.

Thwaites then got out of his car, walked up to the woman, smiled and held two fingers up at her.

He was arrested on August 19 and served with another police notice but more dangerous driving driving was to come.

The next incident happened on Ripon Road in Harrogate where he was tailgating a VW Golf.

Fearful of a collision, the VW driver stopped his car, whereupon Thwaites drove round him only to speed straight back towards the Volkswagen.

He struck the open door of the Golf, causing damage, and reversed back towards it again, just missing the driver.

The motorist took photos of the incident to gather evidence, prompting Thwaites to throw a number of punches at him.

The victim also claimed Thwaites had lunged at him with “something metallic”, which he believed was a knife. However, there was no proof that a weapon had been used and Thwaites was charged with common assault.

He admitted the assault and dangerous driving at York Crown in October but a month later he was on the warpath again – this time with police officers in his sights.

On November 16, patrol officers saw Thwaites pulling into the BP garage on North Street, Ripon, and parked their van in front of his blue MG.

As they walked over to have a word with him, Thwaites reversed away at speed as one of them shouted for him to stop.

The officer put his hands up in a ‘stop’ signal, only to hear the furious spinning of wheels as Thwaites drove the car straight towards him and the other officer who jumped out of the way just in time but suffered minor hand injuries.

Thwaites was arrested in the city centre but during police questioning made no comment and smirked his way through the interview, the court heard.

In a victim-impact statement read out in court, one of the officers said he was “completely stunned and frightened” by Thwaites’ actions, adding: “We could have been killed.”

The court heard that Thwaites had four previous convictions for dangerous driving in 2008 and 2009, when he was detained in a young offenders’ institution and banned from driving.

He admitted four counts of dangerous driving and common assault in relation to his latest offences.

Jailing him for three-and-a-half years, judge Stephen Ashurst told him: “It is remarkable that nobody lost their lives.”

Thwaites was also given a seven-year driving ban.