A CROWD of pedestrians feared a terrorist attack and fled screaming as a car careered towards them.

Drunk driver Josh Gaskell deliberately aimed the vehicle at groups of people coming out of Bradshawgate bars in the early hours of December 8 last year, narrowly avoiding hitting them.

At Bolton Crown Court Judge Graeme Smith jailed 22-year-old Gaskell for 14 months, describing his driving as “shocking”.

“I am quite satisfied that you were aiming, if not to hit pedestrians, to come very close to them so that you would scare them,” the judge told Gaskell.

“That is shocking — it’s absolutely shocking. This is a case where custody is inevitable.”

Insurance telesales worker Gaskell, of Freshfield Grove, Great Lever, had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, drink driving, possessing cannabis and having no insurance.

Clare Thomas, prosecuting, told how crowds of revellers were leaving the Kahiki Hideout bar and neighbouring Bamboogy at 4.30am on the Saturday morning when Gaskell, arrived, driving a Peugeot which he stopped in the middle of Bradshawgate.

Witness Charlotte Benson was outside the Kahiki Hideout with around 20 other people and 30 more pedestrians were outside Bamboogy.

“Bradshawgate was very busy. Bars were closing and there were a lot of people out on the street,” said Miss Thomas.

The car driver was shouting to a woman who was outside Bamboogy. She and another woman walked up to the car, but as they tried to get in Gaskell started driving off, trying to do a three point turn.

“Miss Benson could tell he was drunk because of the way he was driving,” said Miss Gaskell.

“She could smell his clutch burning and he appeared desperate to get away.”

Gaskell sped off towards Bank Street, but a minute later Miss Benson saw the car return.

“It came speeding up towards Bamboogy like he was aiming for the bar and the people standing outside,” said Miss Thomas.

The vehicle swerved away and headed along Bradshawgate at up to 50mph.

“People were screaming and starting to run away,” said Miss Thomas, who added that the car returned for a third time seconds later.

“It seemed he was heading straight towards Bamboogy and Kahiki and everybody outside. Miss Benson started to scream at the door staff and everybody to get away. At that time she had visions of a terrorist attack.

“She describes herself as being terrified and beyond scared that that he was going to hit somebody."

Gaskell then reversed into a taxi waiting outside The Swan pub before driving the wrong way up Churchgate.

One man was knocked to the ground as he tried to reverse but crowds of people managed to surround the car, smash the driver’s window, snatch the keys from the ignition and throw them down a


Police arrived on the scene and arrested Gaskell, who admitted he had taken cocaine. He had drunk almost double the legal alcohol limit and was arrested.

A small bag of cannabis was also found in the driver’s footwell.

Kimberley Morton, defending, conceded that it had been an “appalling piece of driving”.

She told how Gaskell had gone to the town centre to collect his girlfriend but, when he arrived, they got into an argument.

“It is difficult to mitigate because people appear to have been genuinely frightened by that piece of driving,” said Miss Morton.

“The defendant doesn’t seek to minimise it.”

Judge Smith, who was shown CCTV of the incident, told Gaskell: “You chose to drive despite the fact that you had no insurance and you had clearly been drinking.

“You returned at speed twice. It is shocking.”

Gaskell was also banned from driving for 41 months, after which he will have to take an extended retest.