A CONVICT who was handed a life term for the “appalling” robbery and kidnap of a retired doctor and his wife has had his minimum jail term slashed by judges.

James Evans, 51, had only been out of prison for a few months when he forced his way into the couple’s home in Baxenden in January.

He demanded cash, pulled rings off the wife’s fingers and threatened them with a knife before kidnapping them and taking them to an ATM.

The couple escaped by alerting staff at a Tesco store and Evans drove off in their car, only to be caught by police shortly afterwards.

Dr Arthur Manuel and his wife Frances Manuel were forced to hand over cash, jewellery and the keys to their Mercedes SLK.

Evans admitted two counts each of robbery and kidnap, driving while disqualified and under the influence of alcohol, and taking a vehicle without consent.

Due to his terrible criminal record and the seriousness of the crimes, he was jailed for life, with a minimum of nine years to serve, at Preston Crown Court in April.

But today, after an appeal by his lawyers, three senior judges in London cut Evans’ minimum term behind bars to seven-and-a-half years.

Lord Justice Flaux, sitting with Mr Justice Popplewell and Judge Martin Picton, said he cut the term “with considerable regret”.

“He took the knife from the complainant and used it to threaten both,” he told the Court of Appeal.

“They may not have suffered physical harm, but this must have been a terrifying experience.”

The court heard Evans, of Whinney Hill Road, Accrington, was released from his previous sentence in July last year, but absconded from the bail hostel where he was supposed to stay.

He had 115 previous crimes on his record, some of them similar offences targeting elderly people, said the judge.

A pre-sentence report revealed that drink and drugs were at the heart of Evans’ life.

He seemed to prioritise his need for money and substances ahead of anyone else, said the writer.

The appeal judge said that the “dreadful” previous record and seriousness of the offences meant a life term was “almost inevitable”.

However, he said the nine-year minimum was too long and cut it to seven-and-a-half years.

He added: “That doesn’t mean he will be released after that term.

“That is the minimum term he will serve before the Parole Board may even consider his possible release.”