Judge calls airport's drop-off charge a "disgrace" as teacher avoids jail for driving into worker

Telegraph Reporters
Graham Benbow faced a two years in prison but received a six-month sentence, suspended for two years - Cavendish Press (Manchester) Ltd

A teacher who drove into an airport worker following a row over a new £3 drop-off charge has been spared jail after a judge said he agreed the levy was an "absolute disgrace".

Graham Benbow, 55, flew into a rage at Manchester Airport when he was told he would have to pay a fee for dropping off a passenger at a departure terminal.

An airport official tried to stop Benbow from driving his Mazda through an open barrier but ended up on the car's bonnet before he was carried along a road for several hundred yards, Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court heard.

Benbow, a psychology teacher at Altrincham Grammar School, went over a roundabout before he stopped for police.

The unnamed worker was uninjured in the incident but said he "genuinely believed he could die from falling off the bonnet."

The Manchester Airport worker said he feared for his life after he ended up on a car bonnet Credit: Ricky Champagne/Cavendish Press

At Minshull Street Crown Court, Benbow, of Stockton Heath, near Warrington faced up to two years in jail after he admitted dangerous driving. 

But he wept as he received a six-month sentence, suspended for two years, as Judge Bernard Lever declared he was "100 per cent against " the new charges introduced by the airport last July.

In sentencing the judge said: "Although it is no excuse for dangerous driving, I think that it is an absolute disgrace that people cannot deliver people to airports without paying an extraordinary amount.

"I was dropping off my cousin at the airport on Sunday and I was warned by my sister that the airport charges had been introduced so I looked for a sign when I arrived - but if I did not know I might not have seen it.

The incident took place two weeks after drop-off charges were introduced at the airport Credit: Ricky Champagne/Cavendish Press

"The airport already does make a lot of money and does not need to charge £3 for people to drop people off. My sister warned me that by the time you have got to the front you are allowed just minutes or seconds and they start charging you more.

"I saw a troop of elderly people who had been dropped off away from the airport trying to avoid these unjust charges. These were not young joggers, they were elderly people who had to be dropped off some distance away from the airport."

He told Benbow: "You are fortunate indeed that I have faced these facilities myself recently. Whilst I am 100 per cent against your behaviour and losing self control, I am 100 per cent 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.

"I quite understand why you lost your rag and completely flipped in the way you did but judges have to uphold the regulations that authorities at the airport are entitled to up their levy from time to time.

Benbow was banned from driving for 12 months following the case at Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court Credit: Ricky Champagne/Cavendish Press

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

The incident occurred last July 23 just 13 days after the charges were introduced by the airport which claimed it would ease "growing congestion." 

Benbow was in the drop off area at the airport when encountered the official who was explaining the new fees.

He was banned from driving for 12 months and will have to retake his driving test after the disqualification period.

Under the new drop off charges drivers are charged £3 for five minutes or £4 for ten minutes to stop outside terminals and the railway station with anyone found "circling" facing a £25 penalty.

Manchester Airport said it was "deeply concerned" by Judge Lever's remarks following the outcome of the case.

A statement read: "It is, in our view, irresponsible for someone in a position of authority to be sending this kind of message to road users about the consequences of dangerous driving.

“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."