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Screwdriver thug Barry Hughes avoids jail after attacking partner's ex in Broadstairs

Maidstone Crown Court, where Hughes was sentenced

A thug who stabbed his partner’s ex-husband in the head with a screwdriver has walked free from court.

Barry Hughes was told by a judge he had escaped being locked up by the skin of his teeth and would be given one final chance.

Hughes, 50, was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment suspended for two years with 200 hours unpaid work. He was ordered to pay victim Paul Cooper £300 compensation and will be subject to a curfew from 8pm to 6am for four months.

Paul Cooper had rowed on the telephone with his former wife Michelle about their teenage daughter Bethany wanting shoes costing £70.

A few days later on February 4 last year, he went to pick up Bethany, 15, from her home in Chestnut Drive, Broadstairs.

Hughes, who has since married Michelle, came out of the house and went up to the victim’s car. He told Mr Cooper he did not appreciate the phone call and said it made his wife cry.

“Mr Cooper said the conversation was none of his business and wound his window up,” prosecutor John Fitzgerald told Maidstone Crown Court. “It prompted Mr Hughes to smack the window.”

Mr Cooper got out of his car and asked Hughes what his problem was. Bethany then witnessed Hughes lunging at Mr Cooper’s head with the screwdriver, causing bleeding.

Mr Cooper asked Hughes: “Is that all you have got?” He also suggested Hughes had “little man syndrome”. Hughes then swiped him across the left ear with the weapon.

A neighbour, who had seen Hughes leave the house with something concealed up his sleeve, later described the attacker walking away but then returning and attempting another blow.

"you have escaped an immediate prison sentence by the skin of your teeth. i very much hope you have learnt your lesson" – judge david griffith-jones
The victim was left dazed, drifting in and out of consciousness and bleeding profusely. He was taken to hospital and six stitches were inserted in the head wound.

Mr Fitzgerald said Hughes at first claimed he had acted in self-defence. He was decorating, he said, and had just opened a tin of paint with the screwdriver.

Judge David Griffith-Jones QC told Hughes: “In short, this was a disgraceful and unprovoked attack in which you chose to use a weapon.”

Hughes had left the house “tooled up” with the screwdriver and then used it to attack Mr Cooper.

“The injuries on the unfortunate Mr Cooper were not as serious as they might have been,” he continued. ”This took place in the street and your victim had attended simply to collect his daughter.

“It was in full view of onlookers, most particularly you victim’s own daughter.”

The judge said he was prepared to accept the attack was wholly out of character and described as an aberration.

“In all the circumstances a prison sentence is demanded but in light of the information I have about you and the general mitigation, I am prepared to give you one final chance by suspending it.

“You have escaped an immediate prison sentence by the skin of your teeth. I very much hope you have learnt your lesson and you won’t be seen back here again.”

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