A NOTORIOUS thug who threatened to stab a car wash boss and set fire to the business has avoided a lengthy sentence behind bars for the second time due to a string of health problems.
Benefit scrounger Peter Owens was told by a judge that the threats he made after wheels on his S-type Jaguar were damaged in the car wash should lead to him being locked up.
But after hearing the 42-year-old has suffered a string of physical and mental problems, the judge at Teesside Crown Court spared him prison and imposed a suspended sentence, allowing Owens to walk free from court.
The case comes three years after Owens, who weighed in at a huge 40stone at the time, was sentenced to just 15 months in jail for a callous baseball attack after the judge ruled a custodial sentence could have an effect on his health problems.
And 10 years ago, Owens, of Sydenham Road, Hartlepool, was released from a five-month prison sentence early when it emerged his wife, Barbara, was gravely ill with meningitis, only for her to make a “miraculous recovery” the week later.
His numerous health problems were again brought up in court yesterday as he was sentenced after being found guilty of two counts of blackmail.
The court heard how Owens, who has 34 convictions for 67 offences, threatened to stab the boss of the car wash and set fire to the business if he wasn’t paid £1,000 for the damage to his expensive car.
David Crook, prosecuting, said the incidents had caused the victim and his family “a lot of worry and lack of sleep”.
Nigel Soppitt, mitigating, said Owens has a history of suffering with a string of physical and mental problems, but said he has showed improvement since doctors stabilised his insulin levels.
Mr Soppitt said: “This is a man who was ill at the time and was suffering with a series of mental health problems.”
The incident dated back to April 2011, but Mr Soppitt said Owens was still suffering with mental health problems when he drove his Landrover on to the beach following an argument with his wife, Barbara, sparking a six-hour stand-off with police in September last year.
Owens told the Mail after the incident that he drove to Seaton beach with a knife and 60 painkillers with the intention of taking his own life.
Mr Soppitt added: “His health is improving now, his self esteem is on the up and his life is going in the right direction.
“As a young man he was doing very well but he went off the rails when he was 17 when his father died.”
The court heard how Owens had sent a letter of complaint to the company running the car wash, but is still yet to get a response 21 months on.
The judge Recorder David Dobbin said: “It’s clear that the custody threshold has been passed.
“I have seen, both before the trial and since, various letters from your doctor which outlined many physical problems you have.
“In the circumstances I can suspend the sentence on this occasion.”
Owens was given an 18-month prison sentence that was suspended for two years, as well as a two-year restraining order and 18-month supervision requirement.
In 2009, as Owens was being sentenced for his baseball attack on two men, the judge told him: “You present a sentencing problem in that these are serious offences, and have to result in a custodial sentence.
“I am going to reduce the sentence considerably because of what I have read about you.
“I’m going to go outside the guidelines because of the health problems you have and the effect a custodial sentence will have on you.”