Published: 06:00, 03 December 2019
A suicidal ex-soldier, from Ashford, who threatened to throw himself off a motorway bridge has been locked up - for ‘causing a public nuisance.’
Police talked down Peter Baars from a bridge on the M20, amid miles of tailbacks on two occasions this year.
The 50-year-old has been jailed for a year at Canterbury Crown Court after being rescued from the wrong side of the railings in April and June.
Judge Mark Weekes labelled the charge “unfortunately phrased” for a “cry from the heart” and urged Baars to seek mental health support.
“I particularly bare in mind your service to your country in the armed forces, a matter which you should be very proud," he said.
“It is a matter of regret that a man who has served with distinction finds themselves in the position that you do.
“I hope you will take opportunities that are there for you.
“It is a matter of regret that a man who has served with distinction finds themselves in the position that you do..."
“I really don’t want to be in three or four weeks reading KentOnline, or other local newspapers, that a man has chosen to take his own life.”
A total of 11 officers, ambulance services and fire crews attended one of Baars’ suicide attempts, the court heard.
Appearing via video link from HMP Elmley, Baars heard psychiatric reports recommend he seeks treatment for a personality disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
His barrister Peter Forbes urged the court to sentence his client to a community order rather than imprisonment.
“Police took the view and acted as they did.
“This at its heart is a social care problem for a man who has significant difficulties in his life.
“And had you ended your life it could have ended in very serious injuries or fatalities to motorists..."
“This is an opportunity for help,” he added.
However judge Weekes ruled a plan of Rehabilitation Activity Requirement Days could “set him up for failure", instead jailing Baars for one year.
It means he will soon be released after spending six months on remand, and can present himself to Ashford Borough Council for emergency accommodation.
“For the motorists who witnessed this, it would have been distressing.
“And had you ended your life it could have ended in very serious injuries or fatalities to motorists,” the judge added.
“This is an opportunity for help...”
The court heard Baars has a history of re-offending and refusing help from mental health teams, prompting a plea from the judge.
“Please take the opportunities available to you,” he said.
Baars could be seen nodding his head as sentencing was passed.
More by this authorSean Axtell