A man who led the police on a horrific chase at up to 120mph along the Warwick and Kenilworth by-pass with his girlfriend and three-year-old son in the car has been jailed.
Petrol thief Jordan Bench appeared at Warwick Crown Court after pleading guilty to dangerous driving, having no licence or insurance, failing to stop for the police, and theft.
Bench (22) of Durbar Avenue, Coventry, who also admitted failing to attend court for a hearing last month, was jailed for 14 months and banned from driving for two years and seven months.
Prosecutor William Douglas-Jones said that on 14 May Bench filled his Renault Megane with £70.30 worth of petrol at a BP service station in Warwick and drove off without paying.
As a result, a ‘marker’ for the Megane was placed on the police system – and around mid-morning on May 18 an ANPR camera in Stratford triggered an alert which led to officers trying to stop it in Birmingham Road.
But Bench sped away, exceeding 30 and 50mph speed limits and going over solid white lines to overtake other traffic as he headed out of the town to the A46.
With a marked police car in pursuit, Bench, who had his girlfriend in the car and their three-year-old son in the back, secured only by a seat belt, raced north along the A46.
Meanwhile a trained high-speed pursuit officer in an unmarked car began recording as he headed south from the M40 and down the A46, turning through a gap in the central reservation before lying in wait by a farm gateway.
Alerted that the pursuit was heading his way, he pulled out and began increasing speed as the Megane and the marked car sped past him in the outside lane at more than 100mph.
The recording of what followed was played in court as the officer in the unmarked car followed to the Longbridge island and onto the A46 Warwick by-pass dual carriageway where he took over the pursuit.
The recording showed Bench tailgating other cars, driving within inches of their bumpers, to force them out of his way, going past other cars on their nearside, and swerving in and out of traffic.
On a stretch of the road where there were just two lanes, he drove at high speed between a lorry in one lane and a car in the other, and then did the same again, knocking off the wing mirror of a van in the nearside lane as he did so.
The officer, unable to do the same, had to drive at more than 120mph to catch him up – and, where the road increased to three lanes, Bench then began weaving across two lanes at more than 100mph to stop the police car getting past him.
As Bench undertook other traffic, the officer, doing more than 100mph, was unable to keep pace.
Bench came off the A46 heading towards a roundabout at 85mph and went through a red light as he headed towards Coventry city centre past the London Road cemetery at more than 80.
As Bench continued to force his way past other traffic at up to 70mph in a 30 zone, the officer had to abandon the pursuit for safety reasons.
But a police helicopter continued to track the Megane until, 25 minutes after the pursuit began, Bench ditched it in a dead-end street off Woodway Lane, Walsgrave.
He made off on foot, leaving his girlfriend and son in the car, which had no child seat, but was caught and arrested.
Bench, who had had his licence suspended after being convicted of careless driving just ten days earlier, admitted the offences when he was interviewed, added Mr Douglas-Jones.
Sarah Marshall, defending, said: “Mr Bench is well aware that I am in difficulty so far as mitigating the dangerous driving is concerned, because the majority of the aggravating features in the guidelines are found in this case.”
She said Bench, who had only recently passed his test, did not realise his licence had been revoked because he had not received notification following the careless driving conviction.
He claimed he thought the police were trying to stop him over the petrol theft, and drove off out of ‘sheer panic.’
And Miss Marshall added: “The three-year-old was wearing a seat belt, but he accepts he didn’t have an appropriate child seat in the car.”
Bench was jailed for 12 months for dangerous driving, with consecutive one-month sentences for the theft and for failing to surrender to his bail last month.
Judge Richard Bond told him: “In my judgement you were aware you should not have been driving.
“This is not the worst case to come before the court, but it does form one of the most serious dangerous drivings there can be. You ended up driving all the way down the Warwick By-pass at over 100mph.
“You tailgated other vehicles to get away, driving up within inches of vehicles in front of you, forcing them to panic and get out of your way.
“It is a real aggravating feature that in the vehicle was not just you putting your own life at risk, you put at risk the life of your girlfriend and your three-year-old son.
“You knew that child, who should have been in a child seat, was sitting in the back wearing just a seatbelt.
“What would have happened if you had crashed? You would have been before the court for death by dangerous driving, and you would have had to live with the guilt of having killed your son.
“I am amazed there was not more serious damage caused or injury to any other person. You had no regard whatsoever for other road-users, you were so intent on getting away.”