Man who caused Orwell Bridge closure after jump threat is jailed

Stuart Winney Orwell Bridge

Stuart Winney was jailed after threatening to jump off the Orwell Bridge - Credit: Archant/Suffolk Police

A drunk Ipswich man who caused the Orwell Bridge to be closed for more than four hours after he threatened to jump off it has been jailed for 30 months.

Sentencing 38-year-old Stuart Winney, Judge Martyn Levett said his actions had caused “considerable disruption” to hundreds of motorists and lorry drivers who were caught up in the gridlock and had resulted in ten ambulances, the RNLI, the coastguard as well as 15 police officers being called to the area.

He said there were tailbacks of 4.5km in both directions on the A14 between 5pm and 9pm and the cost of the Orwell Bridge being closed for four hours had been estimated at £166,000.

Stuart Winney Orwell Bridge jump threat

Stuart Winney was jailed for 30 months - Credit: Suffolk Police

He said this sum did not include the cost to members of the public for their inconvenience and losses.

Ipswich Crown Court heard that the incident on August 7 was the latest in a series of nine visits to the Orwell Bridge by Winney, including an occasion on July 8 at around 11pm when he had jumped off the 43m high bridge and had to be rescued by the RNLI.

Harry O’Sullivan, prosecuting, said although Winney hadn’t needed to be resuscitated he was seriously injured and spent several weeks in hospital.

He said on two other occasions Winney had been spoken to by police officers while he was on the bridge and had left voluntarily.

On a third occasion on July 31 he had been taken by police from the bridge to hospital but had subsequently discharged himself and told staff that he was returning to the bridge to carry on what he’d started.

Most Read

As a result police officers spent two hours looking for him near the bridge before discovering he’d gone home.

Winney, of Wherstead Road, Ipswich, pleaded guilty to causing a public nuisance.

In addition to being jailed for 30 months he was made the subject of a five year criminal behaviour order stopping him from going near the Orwell Bridge on foot.

Mr O’Sullivan said that on August 7 Winney had walked towards the crest of the bridge and threatened to jump off unless he could speak to his former partner.

The court heard that at the time Winney was subject to bail conditions banning him from contacting the woman following allegations of a domestic nature although the case against him was dropped last month after the prosecution offered no evidence against him.

On August 7 police obtained Winney’s ex partner’s phone number and arranged for a phone to be brought to him so that he could speak to her.

Four hours after the start of the incident after talking to police negotiators Winney agreed to sit in an ambulance and was not found to be suffering from acute mental illness.

He appeared intoxicated and said he had drunk a bottle of vodka and several lagers.

He was arrested and on his way to a police station he told an officer that following his release from custody he would return to the bridge and jump off it and it would be the officer’s fault.

Winney claimed he didn’t know why police had been called to the Orwell Bridge and said he had only been walking across the bridge to meet a friend at MacDonalds.

The court heard that Winney had 29 previous convictions, including making three bomb hoax calls.

Jess Peck, for Winney, said her client only started going to the Orwell Bridge after a violent attack on him in June this year which had resulted in him struggling with his mental health.

She said he hadn’t appreciated at the time the impact of his actions on people sitting in their cars but now felt “extremely bad” about what happened.

She said he had wanted to speak to his former girlfriend because he was was in a dark place and was planning to kill himself.

She said Winney was now in a much better place and had been addressing his issues with alcohol.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter