A MAN who drove an American military-style truck at several police and neighbours’ vehicles causing more than £300,000 of damage in Norton Fitzwarren as he tried to evade arrest has been jailed for two years.
Geoff Marshall, aged 41, of Station Road, Norton Fitzwarren, was sentenced on Friday (November 10) at Taunton Crown Court, which was sitting in North Somerset Magistrates’ Court, Worle, because of renovation work in Taunton.
Marshall admitted one charge of assault by beating, 11 counts of criminal damage, and one of dangerous driving in connection with a series of incidents in the village on Sunday, September 10.
Police had been called to his home at 4.20 pm by a woman who feared for her safety.
Prosecuting, Jack Barros said the incident stemmed from an argument between Marshall and his partner over text messages on his mobile phone.
Mr Barros said the woman feared for her safety and left the property and called the police, who arrived to find Marshall holding a chainsaw over his head.
Marshall then attempted to make off from the scene by driving his 1958 M35 truck through police vehicles in a roadblock, before reversing into the property and causing significant structural damage to it.
Police tried to break the truck’s window to remove him from the vehicle.
But he threatened them with the chainsaw and drove the two-ton vehicle through several police vehicles before colliding with five other unoccupied vehicles and a lamppost.
Marshall then drove six miles to an M5 overbridge at Walford Cross, where he climbed over to the wrong side of the safety barrier and threatened to jump.
He was eventually arrested when officers talked him back over the barrier.
Marshall, who was not legally represented in court, said he was suffering ‘significant mental health problems’ as a result of marriage difficulties.
In a statement Marshall said: "I never intended to harm anybody and I never intended to do any damage either.
He said he was ‘deeply ashamed’ of his actions which arose from ‘desperation, panic, and terror’ during his mental breakdown and not through any malice.
Judge Edward Burgess KC imposed a two-year custodial sentence on Marshall and a two-year driving disqualification, at the end of which he would have to take an extended test.
He accepted Marshall was ‘deeply ashamed’ and ‘remorseful’, but described the defendant’s actions as ‘extremely reckless’ that had a high chance of causing injury or death to officers.
Judge Burgess said: "It is apparent to me that you are genuinely ashamed, and in your words 'deeply ashamed', now you reflect about how you behaved on that day.
"I accept that you were in a desperate state mentally and emotionally suicidal in your thinking and that caused you to act in a way which was totally out of character."
However, Judge Burgess said he believed Marshall had intended to cause ‘very serious damage’ with his actions.
He said: "The reality is the way you behaved was extremely reckless at the very least to create a very high risk of injury, if not death to others."
Judge Burgess was shown police body-worn camera footage and mobile phone video filmed by neighbours showing Marshall hitting police vehicles in the truck as he made his getaway.
Police officers could be heard in the footage shouting to residents to get inside their homes as the truck came toward them and telling Marshall to stop.
Mr Barros said: “A police officer was inside one of the vehicles at the time and he says he was spun around by the impact of the truck hitting the vehicle.
"Understandably, he says he was absolutely petrified by what he saw happen."
One police officer said in a victim impact statement: "I have never been so scared as I have during this incident.
"I seriously thought I was going to be crushed and killed."
Det Insp Claire Millington said: “Through his actions Marshall caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage to police vehicles, private vehicles, and property.
“Some of the vehicles he damaged have been completely written-off while repairs need to be made to buildings, street furniture, and the motorway bridge.
“His behaviour not only affected the ability for the police to respond to emergency calls on the day in question but caused significant disruption to his neighbours and those using the motorway, which was closed for a short time.
“Members of the public and police officers feared for their safety, and it is only through the efforts of officers that nobody was seriously injured.
“I commend the bravery of my colleagues who attended on that day.
“Their selfless decisions to place themselves in harm’s way and make repeated attempts to stop the vehicle saw them prioritise the public’s safety.
“Regardless of whether he intended to cause others harm or not, Marshall must now pay a significant price for his reckless and dangerous actions.”