Mother devastated as driving instructor is freed from prison early

A mother-of-two has been left devastated after learning the driving instructor who sexually assaulted her as a teenager is walking free after only serving half of his prison sentence.

Chenine Woods, 37, from Winsford, Cheshire, was subjected to a series of horrifying attacks at the hands of her driving instructor Frank Barham in 2003.

In 2019, the Sergeant Major, 73, was branded a ‘predator’ by a judge and sentenced to eight years after several female students bravely came forward about his conduct.

However, the single mother, who now works in hospitality, has learned that her abuser will now be living a short drive away from her home.

Discussing the impact Barham has had on her, Chenine explained: ‘The abuse destroyed my teenage years and I still live with it now. 

Pictured: Chenine aged 17, around the time the abuse began. The mother-of-two says she still feels the effects of Barham's actions

‘When I heard he was being released, my stomach churned, and the memory of what he did to me came flooding back. I’m in tears, knowing he is out there. 

‘I still feel threatened by him, as though I am still that defenceless teenager. I have flashbacks and moments of panic.

‘I heard the government plans to keep criminals in prison for longer, but I just don’t think they go far enough. A four-year sentence is nothing for what he took away from me, and from the other victims too.’

After being taken away from her biological parents, Chenine was adopted in 1991 at the age of five.

In September 2003, her adoptive parents bought her driving lessons for her 17th birthday – and Frank Barham had been recommended by her mother’s friend.

Looking back on her first ever lesson, Chenine explained: ‘He asked me what piercings I had, and he put his hand up my top to check my stomach piercing. 

‘I was absolutely shocked, but I said nothing because he was an adult, in his mid 50’s, and I didn’t want to get into trouble.’ 

During the session, Barham asked Chenine what kind of music she liked and then arrived at her next lesson with some CDs he’d made.

Pictured: Frank Barham's mugshot. The 73-year-old walked free after only serving half of his sentence this monthChenine (pictured) said: '

Chenine (pictured) said: 'I’m devastated he has been released, back to his old life. He lives around a half hour car drive from me, and I panic I might bump into him, when I’m out with my children.'

Chenine continued: ‘I was going through a bad time at home and Frank was very sympathetic. 

‘Looking back, he could see I was vulnerable, and he was grooming me. But I thought he genuinely wanted to help.’ 

Between September 2003 to March 2004, Barham subjected Chenine to a string of serious sexual assaults – which took place during lessons and even at his home on one occasion.

Detailing how the abuse escalated, the mother said: ‘It started with him asking me to wear a leather skirt and high boots for my lessons, which I didn’t. 

‘Then he told me I should look down at my gears more so he could look down my top. 

‘He put his hand inside my bra and made vulgar comments. And one day, he picked me up straight from school for a lesson and put his hands in my knickers as I was driving. 

‘I had my hands on the wheel, and I was absolutely petrified. I didn’t know what to do.’

Following Barham's attacks, Chenine put on over six stone and said she 'felt worthless' during this time

Following this, Barham organised to tutor Chenine at his home ahead of her driving theory exam.

She said: ‘I thought I’d be safe there, I knew he was married with a child, but he took me upstairs to his study and he put his hand under my top and rubbed my back whilst his wife was downstairs.’

However, the alarm was raised for Chenine’s parents when Barham didn’t bring her home until 10pm that evening.

Describing how ‘furious’ they were, she added: ‘They actually asked me if he was being inappropriate, and I said no. I just didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. I was upset and confused. 

‘I had enough trouble going on at home and I didn’t feel I could confide in them. It felt like nobody was on my side.’

Between September 2003 to March 2004, Barham subjected Chenine to a string of serious sexual assaults - which took place during lessons and even at his home on one occasion

Chenine Woods

Chenine Woods

The abuse only ended after Barham penetrated her digitally during a lesson after ordering Chenine to drive to a secluded area.

She explained: ‘I had my seat belt on, and I had my hands on the wheel. I was terrified. There was nobody around. I asked him if I could go home, and he said no.’

Following this, the teenager refused to have any more lessons with Barham – and began struggling at school and self-harming in the years that followed.

Chenine said: ‘I went through several years of feeling really bad about myself. I couldn’t be intimate with a man unless I was drunk.

‘I put on over six stones in weight. I made a suicide attempt too. I felt worthless.’

In 2006, Chenine reported the abuse to police – but six years later, she was told there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Barham.

‘I was told it was his word against mine,’ she added. ‘It just made me feel even more than I didn’t matter.’ 

Chenine went on to have her two sons, aged 12 and seven, and says becoming a mother helped turned her life around.

In 2017, she was contacted by police to see if she would testify against Barham after more female students made serious complaints against him. 

Two years later, Chester Crown Court heard that Chenine’s abuse was by far the most serious. Other former students claimed Barham had slapped their bottoms, hugged them and even put his hand down their bra.

Another victim said Barham suggested she wear lacy red knickers as a lucky charm on the day of her driving test.

Barham denied all offences against him and claimed that physical contact was part of his teaching style.

However, a jury found Barham guilty of three counts of sexual assault and nine counts of indecent assault.

Despite being sentenced to eight years behind bars, Barham walked free after only serving four this month.

Chenine said: ‘I am traumatised by what he did to me. I struggle with relationships, and I have very low self-esteem. I’m a single mum, working two jobs to look after my boys, and I do my best, but the abuse haunts me.

‘I’m devastated he has been released, back to his old life. He lives around a half hour car drive from me, and I panic I might bump into him, when I’m out with my children. It just doesn’t seem fair, and I think he should have served longer.’


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