An X Factor star today avoided jail after being convicted of dangerous driving following a road rage incident on the A1 in Lincolnshire.
Matthew Linnen, 30, who reached the semi final finishing sixth in the 2017 competition, lost his cool when he was cut up by Dominic Eaton while driving home to Essex after performing in the north-east.
The two were then involved in aggressive driving towards each other during which Linnen threw a coffee cup at Eaton’s car and then threw a packet of peanuts out of his sun roof.
Andrew Scott, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court that the incident started when Linnen was forced to brake sharply after being cut up and he responded by gesticulating and shouting at Eaton.
Their vehicles almost collided and in the moments afterwards Linnen threw the items at Eaton’s vehicle.
Then the two cars collided and left the road with Eaton’s vehicle rolling over. Eaton, and a young child in his car escaped injury as did Linnen.
Linnen, 30, of Westcliff on Sea, Essex, denied dangerous driving as a result of the incident on the A1 at Great Ponton, near Grantham, on April 30, 2018 but was convicted by a jury following a trial.
He was given a six month jail sentence suspended for 12 months with 50 hours of unpaid work. He was banned from driving for a year and ordered to pay £1,400 prosecution costs.
Eaton, 38, of Sunningdale, Grantham, had previously admitted dangerous driving. He was given an eight month jail suspended for two years with 100 hours of unpaid work. He was also banned from driving for two years and ordered to pay £170 costs.
Recorder William Harbage QC told them:
“It is only by the grace of God that nobody was hurt. The driving of both of you was appalling.”
He told Linnen: “You lost the plot as much as he did. You were throwing things from your car at his car. You didn’t start this but whatever provocation there may be I regard as slight. You reacted to Eaton’s driving and thereafter you fully participated in a road rage incident.”
Linnen, who described himself as a builder/musician, told the jury that he was driving home from performing in a charity gig in Durham when he was cut up by Eaton who emerged from a side road onto the A1.
He said he had to slam his brakes on to avoid a collision and added “I put a thumbs up sarcastically in his direction.”
Linnen admitted throwing the coffee cup and said “I wanted to get out of the situation but being provoked I wasn’t thinking straight.
“I was worried what he was doing and just wanted to get away.”
He said he overtook Eaton’s vehicle but it then began tailgating him and so he threw the peanuts out of the sun roof.
Linnen accepted that it was “stupid” to throw the items out of his car but argued that his driving was careless rather than dangerous.
The jury was told he had never been in trouble before and had a clean driving licence after passing his test eight years earlier.
Natalie Bird, for Linnen, said “He accepts it was a moment of madness. He does accept he lost his temper.”
David Eager, for Eaton, said his client admitted the charge against him at a hearing in January and has had the matter hanging over his head since then.
“He not only pleaded guilty at the first opportunity but he has co-operated fully.
“He has found employment. He works between 30 and 50 hours a week. He walks the two miles to work.”