Road-rage pensioner jailed

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The Independent Online
A 69-year-old motorist was jailed for 18 months yesterday for stabbing another driver during a road rage row. Former handyman, James Hopkinson stared straight ahead in the dock as the jury found him guilty unanimously of unlawfully wounding Julian Gott, 45.

Mr Hopkinson stabbed Mr Gott, a surveyor, seven times with a penknife after he followed Mr Hopkinson's Citroen Visa car to a car park.

Mr Gott had been angry when Mr Hopkinson had cut in front of his BMW 325 in the outside lane of Stanningley bypass in Leeds last September.

He said he went after Mr Hopkinson "on the spur of the moment, to give him a mouthful" about his allegedly dangerous driving. Leeds Crown Court was told Mr Hopkinson struck Mr Gott on the side of the head and thrust a folding penknife into his stomach.

Mr Gott still has scars on his abdomen and thigh, but has otherwise made a full physical recovery after the attack, which took place in Pudsey railway station car park at 6.55pm on 8 September, 1995.

Mr Gott told how he was bleeding profusely from his wounds, but managed to drive to the Owlcotes shopping centre, 200 yards from the station. Two women trained in first-aid at Asda supermarket helped him while "horrified" shoppers looked on.

Judge John Swanson told Mr Hopkinson: "Violence arising from disputes between motorists in cars will normally result in a prison sentence. When the facts are accompanied by a weapon - as in your case - the sentence must be substantial.

"I take into account your age, health and the fact that another jury has already acquitted you of the far more serious offence of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

"Mr Gott acted foolishly. If he had not followed you, this incident would not have happened. I do not treat you as a man with a record of violence."

Mr Gott lives in Burley-in-Wharfedale, a village in the hills north of Leeds. Mr Hopkinson, who has three children, lives at Cavendish Square in Pudsey, Leeds, with his wife. Leeds Crown Court heard how Mr Hopkinson had already served five years for two charges of felonious wounding and burglary in 1956. He was convicted that year at Leeds Assizes Court. He also had convictions for reckless driving, in 1983 and 1985.

After yesterday's hearing, Detective Sergeant Colin Buck of West Yorkshire police said: "I think it's a just verdict. The evidence showed the defendant reacted in a manner more violent than necessary."

Det Sgt Buck warned all motorists to avoid road rage. "One driver nearly lost his life. Another lost his liberty. It's better just to drive on and let commonsense prevail," he said.