A DRUNK Chester racegoer had a fight on live lanes of the M53 motorway, causing at least one oncoming vehicle to swerve out of the way.

Liam Formby, 24, of Clippers Quay, Salford, had been in a taxi with two other men and three women at about 7.30pm on September 1 when the scuffle began as the taxi drove along the motorway towards the M56 junction on the outskirts of Chester at 70mph.

The taxi began rocking from side to side as a result and driver Kevin Houghton pulled over to the hard shoulder.

While trying to break up the fight, Mr Houghton received a punch to the head.

Formby, appearing at Chester Magistrates Court, had pleaded guilty to threatening behaviour but did not accept he deliberately assaulted Mr Houghton, a view which was accepted by magistrates.

As Mr Houghton moved his vehicle to a place of safety, the fight spilled out from the hard shoulder on to live lanes of the motorway, causing at least one vehicle to swerve out of the way, prosecutor Alan Currums told the court.

When arrested, Formby accepted the taxi driver was trying to defuse the situation and apologised for his conduct.

A probation report heard that since the incident, which happened after Formby had been to a Chester Races meeting, Formby was an extremely different person now.

On the day he had drunk "way to excess" and, since the arrest, he had researched why he had done what he did. As a consequence, he had completely given up alcohol.

He still had a 'niggling doubt' in the back of his mind so had referred himself to a doctor, who had prescribed him anti-depressants for anxiety and referred him to primary mental health care, something which the probation service would normally do.

He had not committed any further offences and, the probation report concluded, he had the skills to remain offence-free in the future.

Defending, Laura Baumanis said Formby did not intend to cause injuries and had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

Formby was remorseful and candid about his actions, remarking that CCTV footage from the taxi of the incident was "horrific".

This was the first time alcohol had caused him such difficulties.

Ms Baumanis added: "This has been a sobering experience for him; one he wishes never to experience again."

The court heard Formby hopes to start his own business in the future and while his family were disappointed in what he had done, they accepted steps had been taken to put things right.

Magistrates handed Formby an eight-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered him to carry out 250 hours unpaid work.

He must pay £200 to Mr Houghton the taxi driver, plus a victim surcharge of £115 and court costs of £85.

  • Thomas Capper, 24, of Euclid Avenue, Grappenhall and Thelwall, Warrington, pleaded not guilty at Chester Magistrates Court on Friday, March 15 to a charge of threatening behaviour. He was bailed for trial at Chester Magistrates Court on May 14 on condition he does not make contact with Kevin Houghton.