St Albans girl terrorised by farmer’s tractor rampage

A FARMER who went on the rampage with his tractor and terrified a St Albans girl and her boyfriend has been spared jail but left with a costly bill.

Vicky Long, 19, who lives in the Cottonmill area of the city and her boyfriend Michael were with four friends in two cars last September on a road trip to an apparently haunted church in the village of Cold Christmas near Ware when a tractor coming the other way blocked their path.

The drivers of both cars pulled in to let the tractor pass but instead it started accelerating and rammed the vehicles.

Vicky, an Oaklands College beauty student, said that the car she was in had been pushed into a neighbouring field and although the driver had attempted to keep driving in the pitch black, they eventually abandoned the car and ran away.

She said she had been scared for her life and a few days later police put out an appeal for witnesses and information about the incident.

The dilapidated church has been featured on You Tube and attracts visitors at night, especially groups of young people, which has caused friction in the area.

This week Paul Newton, the 60-year-old husband of the Mayor of Hertford, Sally Newton, who was formerly executive member for adult care services at Herts county council, appeared at Luton Crown Court for sentencing after he was convicted last month of dangerous driving and three charges of damaging property. He had denied he was driving the tractor and maintained it had been stolen from his farm in nearby Thundridge.

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Daniel Bishop, prosecuting, outlined the incident – the second on the night of September 5 – when the tractor struck one car four times and knocked the other off the road into a field. He said: “That car drove through several fields to get away from the tractor which was on a bit of a rampage. The driver and his girlfriend abandoned the car and ran across fields to a hotel.”

Police were alerted shortly after 9.30pm and six minutes later, Newton reported his tractor stolen.

Newton told the jury that he had not lied about his tractor being stolen. He said he had finished harvesting and gone to the pub for a couple of pints.

Andel Singh, defending, said that Newton had farmed all his life and had 750 acres of arable land over three farms. He went on: “Visitors to the church have caused difficulties to say the least, bales of hay have been set alight and the feelings of the local community run high.”

Sentencing Newton, Judge Barbara Mensah, said she was satisfied that he was driving the tractor that night and taking the law into his own hands. “You were fed up with people continuously coming down that lane.

“You have been described as a model citizen but on that occasion you simply lost it. It was frightening for all those involved, they were terrified and it is a wonder that no-one was injured.”

She sentenced Newton to a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, with a three-month curfew after 11pm at night. He was also banned from driving for a year.

In addition he was ordered to pay compensation for the damage to the cars, personal compensation to the three drivers and their seven passengers and prosecution costs – a total bill of nearly �11,500.

After the hearing Det Insp Stuart Orton who led the investigation said: “It is never acceptable when a member of the public, regardless of their position or motive, decides to take the law into their hands. It is more through luck than judgement that no-one was seriously injured during this reckless and dangerous incident.”