A CONVICT "barely out of jail" who terrorised a motorist in a road rage attack has walked free from court.

John Handley, 50, completely lost control after driver Paul Goodyear "cut him up" and he braked, causing his cancer-stricken girlfriend to cry out in pain.

Handley followed Mr Goodyear to his home, took a baseball bat from his boot and after blocking his car in, smashed his victim's windscreen, Burnley Crown Court heard.

Sentencing Handley to three years probation, Recorder Leonard Portnoy said he would probably be "vilified" when the case appeared in the local press - but he could show "extraordinary mercy" because of Handley's attempts to put his life in order.

The judge said the baseball bat was every bit as lethal as a shotgun and every bit as capable of killing people.

He said: "People drive badly every day of the week and you are going to have to learn to shake your head. The courts are sick of what is currently called road rage."

Handley, of Thurston Street, Burnley, admitted affray, last June. He must pay £97 compensation and attend an anger management course. Paul Hague, prosecuting, said the complainant was driving around the "Happy eater" roundabout, Burnley.

Believing he was being tail-gated - followed too closely - he braked hard, causing Handley to brake heavily.

Mr Goodyear drove home, with Handley following. The defendant then got the bat and after complaining the victim had nearly "written his car off," smashed his windscreen.

Mr Goodyear, who had run back to his car and locked himself in, noted Handley's registration number and rang police.

Mr Hague added the defendant had previous convictions for assault, police assault and was "barely out of prison" after serving a six-year term for GBH with intent when the offence happened.

William Staunton, defending, said Handley had been "a criminal of the first order" and in the past had pre-planned and gone out intending to terrorise anybody.

Since his release he had been involved, perhaps for the first time, in a stable relationship.

He was driving along with his girlfriend, who had been suffering cancer, when he was "effectively cut up," had to take evasive action and the girlfriend screamed in pain when she fell forward wearing her seatbelt.

Handley accepted he over-reacted and that his partner had not been helped by his stupidity and hot-headedness.

The defendant resisted his actions when he saw the victim was frightened and his girlfriend was screaming at him to stop.

Mr Staunton added Handley had made valiant steps since coming out of prison was selling computer items on the internet.

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