Pervert driving instructor sexually abused six women while giving lessons
A veteran driving instructor – and decorated Sergeant Major from the British Army – was today jailed for eight years for sexually assaulting six of his young pupils during lessons.
Frank Barham, from Ellesmere Port, was branded a “predator” by a judge today for the way the now-69-year-old targeted his “vulnerable” victims over a period of 17 years.
At Chester Crown Court , Judge Patrick Thompson told the “remorseless” former soldier, who served for 22 years in the forces: “Underlying your public persona was a cunning sexual predator who hid a dark secret from those who knew him best.”
Most seriously, well-known Barham abused a teenage girl, who was so traumatised she ended up living homeless on the streets and regularly self-harmed.
The married dad-of-two and grandfather once groped the inner thigh of one victim, and put his hand inside the bra of another, it was heard.
Further allegations exposed how Barham stuck his hand down one teenager’s knickers as she was driving down a country lane in Hooton, just outside Merseyside.
Another woman claimed that the pensioner hugged her and slapped her bottom on the day of her driving test.
And one victim complained how Barham, who ran the now-defunct Frank’s School of Motoring, suggested she wear lacy red knickers as a lucky charm on the day of her test.
The former 22nd Cheshire Regiment serviceman denied all offences against him, claiming physical contact was part of his teaching style.
But a jury didn’t believe him, rejecting his plea that a series of taps and prods were merely a way he taught his students how to drive.
Barham, whose wife is standing by him, was convicted of three counts of sexual assault and all nine counts of indecent assault.
Judge Thompson said: “You have been convicted in respect of 12 counts of sexual offences against six women who you were teaching to drive, spanning 17 years.
“This ranged from inappropriate touching to the digital penetration of a teenage girl.
“They trusted you and booked lessons due to recommendations.
“The teenage girl was particularly vulnerable, and she confided in you about the fractious relationship with her parents.
“You saw that as an opportunity to abuse her, and treated her as your sexual plaything,
“One one occasion, you digitally penetrated her and on other opportunities you sexually molested them for your own sexual gratification.
“Every victim suffered a loss of trust.
“There was a different side to you, with a distinguished army career.”
There were tears in the public gallery from some of Barnham’s victims, who attended today’s sentence to see their abuser finally put behind bars.
It was heard how, years ago, women had complained about lecherous Barham, of Halton Road in Great Sutton, but even though he was arrested and questioned by police, the case collapsed.
One trial stalled after a jury was unable to reach a verdict.
Because of the media coverage of that case, two more women came forward to detail how they were molested by the driving instructor.
Barham concocted a story that he would explain to his students: “I would say to them, I do apologise for touching your knee.
“If it offends you please inform me.
“It was nothing sexual.”
But that was rejected as lies.
Two of the victims made complaints against Barham more than 10 years ago, but they weren’t believed.
During his trial, Barham did accept he had called one of the girls “sexy” in a text message, which he immediately realised was wrong and apologised.
One woman described how the pervert groped at her while she changed the gears, using it as an opportunity to put his hand up her top and inside her bra to squeeze her breasts.
This happened regularly, she insisted.
Barham, in his 50s when he abused his youngest victim, often talked suggestively to her and asked if she had any piercings.
On another occasion, the predator collected his teenage victim and drove them to a secluded spot where he sexually assaulted her.
She was so scared that she just stared straight out of the window, and held onto the steering wheel, while the abuse was carried out over a few minutes.
At one point, he said to her, “Don’t worry, I don’t want you to play with my ****.”
When Barham finally stopped, she pleaded with him, “Can we go home now?”
Another woman described to detectives how the instructor would make suggestive remarks about her driving and her appearance, once telling her: “Do that again and I’ll hit you over the head with the soggy end.”
In other lessons, one of her children was sat in the back of the car, but still Barham preyed on her.
He explained to the beleaguered woman: “Don’t think I’m being crude, but it’s like when a woman’s on, it’s red and then a man can’t go in, it’s like a dead-end.
“You can’t go in.”
Next he leaned across her body, taking hold of her hair, and asking, “Where does your real hair start?”
As he did this, she “felt his forearm press against the bare skin of her chest.
“She pushed his hand away and was shaking.
“He commented on her fake tan and then lent forward again and touched her on the chest.
“She pushed his hand away but he wouldn’t be put off.
“Next he took his left hand and pushed it under her shirt, underneath her bra and onto her right breast.
“She could feel him touching your nipple and she told them that she really wanted to go home now.
“He insisted that she carry on with the questions and when she had finished, she told him that she had a headache and wanted to go home.
“Once back at home she told her partner and then the police.”
Barham was arrested and interviewed, but he denied it all which led to police taking no action.
One victim complained he would comment on her hair, leaning over and touching it, and commented on her nail varnish.
Barham, she said, touched her up under the guise of teaching her how to use the clutch.
He would put his finger on top of her thigh, and his hand was “not very far from her crotch,” during most lessons.
As he sent disgraced Barham to the cells, Judge Thompson praised the six women for their courage in coming forward to stop the cycle of abuse.