A DRIVER who rammed a scooter rider in a road rage incident sparked by lane filtering has been spared jail.

Wayne Balderstone, 43, hurled a barrage of abuse at Neil Dowsett just after the traffic lights on the A127 Southend-bound at Progress Road, Leigh, on May 11.

Basildon Crown Court heard he then rowed with Mr Dowsett for just under one mile, until he knocked him off his scooter and drove away in his Nissan Almera.

Mr Dowsett, who was riding a 125cc scooter, was left with a fracture to his left hand and thumb, as well as bruising to his leg.

The forklift truck driver, of Stanley Road, Southend, admitted one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, although he claimed he was simply trying to “scare” Mr Dowsett.

Iestyn Morgan, prosecuting, said: “The defendant’s car moved across in front of him, so Mr Dowsett then saw a gap to go around and that’s what he did.

“The defendant beeped his horn and then there was an exchange of views. There were fingers and gestures from both of them. He could see in his mirror the defendant changing lanes and then accelerating towards him. The next thing he remembers is the defendant pulling to his right and colliding with the scooter. It fell away behind him and the defendant sped away.”

The court heard a driver who witnessed the incident said Balderstone was “swerving across lanes” and the driving was “deliberate”.

Mr Dowsett, a drayman, has since been forced to switch roles by his employer because of the loss of strength in his left hand.

Chris Whitcombe, mitigating, said although Mr Dowsett did suffer a serious injury there was “no medical evidence of any permanent disability.”

Mr Whitcombe said despite Balderstone not entering a guilty plea until the day of the trial, he did so because he had genuine remorse and wanted to spare Mr Dowsett giving evidence.

He said: “He wished to avoid Mr Dowsett coming to court because he predicted it wouldn’t do anyone any good and did not want to force him to relive what could have been a far more tragic incident. Had a vehicle been following then heaven knows what could have taken place."

Judge Samantha Leigh handed him a 20-month prison sentence, suspended for 24 months, and disqualified him from driving for 24 months. He must also complete 240 hours of unpaid work and pay £500 costs.