Drunk driver, 23, who 'turned his car into a weapon' is jailed

The moment a man deliberately rammed a couple with his car outside nightclub before reversing back over woman after drunken argument

  • Father-of-one Lee Clarke, 23, was drinking with his girlfriend in Lancashire 
  • A court heard he started arguing with Sophia Meakin-Hogg and Skye Bullen 
  • He got into his VW Golf and ran over the couple as they queued for a bar 
  • Clarke  pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and two counts of assault
  • Jailed for six-and-a-half years at Burnley Crown Court after pleading guilty

Father-of-one Lee Clarke, 23, has been jailed for six-and-a-half years

A drunk driver who turned his car into a ‘weapon’ as he drove at two queuing clubgoers has been jailed for six-and-a-half years. 

Father-of-one Lee Clarke, 23, reversed his car and tried to knock the couple over a second time following a row during a night out on Christmas Eve in 2019.

CCTV footage shows the moment Clarke used his car as a battering ram to attack the couple as they queued to get into another bar. 

Clarke had been drinking with his girlfriend in the Bees Knees pub in Rawtenstall, Lancs, when stranger Sophia Meakin-Hogg walked in with her boyfriend Skye Bullen. 

Burnley Crown Court heard he started arguing with them before all four were kicked out the bar. Clarke at one stage aggressively held his arm around Mr Bullen’s neck. 

Clarke and his girlfriend got into his VW Golf and went looking for the couple before driving his car into them as they waited outside the town’s Revival nightclub.

CCTV footage shows the moment Clarke used his car as a battering ram to attack the couple as they queued to get into another bar

Judge Sara Dodd said: ‘You drove your car deliberately at two people for no good reason at all.

‘You had some disagreement with Mr Bullen over something that was nothing to do with you. It was put on your behalf that you “lost the plot”.

‘You used your vehicle as a weapon. It was an offence on a public street late at night when the pubs were emptying. It was Christmas Eve and there is a very significant ongoing effect on Miss Meakin-Hogg.’ 

Both victims received extensive trauma, including bumps and cuts to their heads and bruising to their bodies.

In a victim impact statement Ms Meakin-Hogg said her life had changed forever and she had been left anxious and scared following the attack.

Clarke and his girlfriend got into his VW Golf and went looking for the couple before driving his car into them as they waited outside the town’s Revival nightclub

After the pub row Clarke’s victims headed to the Revival nightclub to continue their night – but Clarke decided to catch up with them for revenge, the court heard.

Prosecutor Matthew Conway said: ‘The defendant drove up behind them with his headlights off, in what we call an attempt to conceal himself.

‘He pulled up alongside them and deliberately accelerated onto the pavement, knocking both victims to the ground.

‘He reversed and accelerated again before reversing at speed while both victims were beside the vehicle, causing Ms Meakin-Hogg to tumble under the car door.’

The court heard how bouncers at Revival attempted to stop the car from driving away after the incident, but Clarke managed to escape. 

He was arrested on January 1 after handing himself in to police following an appeal but denied driving the car.

After the pub row Clarke’s victims headed to the Revival nightclub to continue their night – but Clarke decided to catch up with them for revenge, the court heard

The defendant was released on police bail but in May 2020 he led officers on a high-speed pursuit from Rossendale to Burnley, Lancs.

At times Clarke reached speeds to up to 90mph. He evaded officers but was arrested in June. He told officers he ‘panicked’ when they asked him to pull over, causing him to speed off. He was again bailed.

Last August he was remanded in custody until his sentencing hearing this week after assaulting the mother of his child by dragging her out of her home. 

Clarke was said to be ‘deeply sorry’ for his crimes and acknowledged ruining peoples’ lives with his behaviour.

DC Melisa Chadwick, of Lancashire Police, said: ‘I welcome the sentence handed down to Clarke.

‘I hope it sends out a clear message that Lancashire Constabulary and the courts will not tolerate this reckless and despicable behaviour.

‘Clarke made the conscious decision to turn his car into a weapon.

‘It is extremely fortunate that it did not result in the death of his completely innocent victims or a member of the public.

‘This incident caused a great deal of concern in the community at the time and I am glad this case has now been brought to a conclusion.

Clarke was said to be ‘deeply sorry’ for his crimes and acknowledged ruining peoples’ lives with his behaviour

‘Clarke will have a considerable time in custody to think about the consequences of his actions and how much worse it could have been.’ 

During the incident Clarke continued to drive up and down Bacup Road a number of times and was only stopped when a member of the public threw a metal gate at the car’s windscreen, said Lancashire Police.

Police were called at 11.30pm on Christmas Eve 2019. 

Clarke, from Rossendale, was sentenced at Burnley Crown Court after he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

He also pleaded guilty to unrelated dangerous driving and assault offences, said police.

Detective Constable Melissa Chadwick said: ‘Clarke made the conscious decision to turn his car into a weapon and it is extremely fortunate that it did not result in the death of his completely innocent victims or a member of the public.

‘This incident caused a great deal of concern in the community at the time and I am glad this case has now been brought to a conclusion and Clarke will have a considerable time in custody to think about the consequences of his actions and how much worse it could have been.’ 

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