A ‘stupid’ driver who led police on a 20-mile chase through built up areas and reaching speeds of around 100mph has been jailed.
John Fennell, of Aitken Street, Accrington, was caught racing another Transit Van by a police vehicle intercept unit on the A666 in Egerton.
Officers then chased Fennell and the other driver through rural and residential areas in Darwen and Blackburn for around 20 minutes before he crashed into a traffic island in Oswaldtwistle.
Burnley Crown Court heard how the 20-year-old managed to evade police officers, dog handlers and a helicopter for around 90-minutes before eventually being found hiding in a garden shed.
He told officers ‘I will come out as long as the dog doesn’t bite me’.
Fennell pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and was jailed for 12 months, ordered to pay a criminal courts charge of £900, banned from driving for two years and ordered to take an extended driving test.
Stephen Parker, prosecuting, said police in an unmarked Subaru Impreza spotted the two racing Transit vans at around midnight on April 20 this year and pursued them.
However when the other Transit van driven by an unknown offender crashed, Fennell continued his high-speed ‘escape’.
Mr Parker told the court: “He achieved speeds of up to 100mph and even the police Subaru Impreza driven by trained officers struggled to keep up with him as he was going that fast. They pursued him for as much as they could and he goes through countless sets of red lights.”
The court heard how Fennell was ‘setting the pace’ in his van and travelled through ‘very built up areas’.
Mr Parker said at one point Fennell went through a red light at 91mph before he crashed in Oswaldtwistle. He said Fennell later told police interview how he was ‘racing’ the other van and when he saw the police he ‘panicked and was stupid’.
Sarah Johnson, defending, said: “He fully admits how stupid he feels and how thoroughly ashamed he is.
“He is exceptionally grateful nobody was injured by his driving and it’s by sheer miracle that nobody was. It was a stupid attempt to evade the police and he was frightened of being arrested.”
Miss Johnson told the court how Fennell has passed his driving test first time when he was 17 years old and had three previous points for speeding.
Judge Beverley Lunt said John Fennell was caught ‘red-handed’ and that it was ‘miraculous’ no-one was killed.
Sentencing, she told the court: “If there was ever a definition of being caught red-handed this is it. What else could he have done but plead guilty?
“Your only thought was to escape and to avoid being arrested.
“You didn’t care what risk you took and you didn’t care what dangers you created for other road users in order to affect your escape.
“The other van crashed but that didn’t bring you to your senses one bit and you carried on.
“It is nothing short of miraculous how little traffic there was on the road that night.
“It is hard to envisage how you could have avoided a head on collision.
“In my estimation you drove for around 20 miles mainly at speeds of 80 or 90mph through several red lights, across roundabouts, driving on the wrong side of the road, through rural and built up areas, areas with parked cars on both sides and in poor driving conditions as it was raining, the road was wet and it was dark.
“This level of offending there is no way of suspending the sentence.”