A MECHANIC has been criticised for his "sheer stupidity" after police filmed him driving at 60mph - with both hands clasped behind his head.

Richard Newton held the pose for 30 seconds as his VW Golf headed along the A171 near Scaling Dam, between Guisborough and Whitby, a court heard.

At the time a number of other vehicles passed the 36-year-old on the opposite side of the road.

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Newton, of Abbots Road, Whitby, accepted it was "not the way you pass your driving test" but claimed he was stretching because of back problems.

He argued he was fully in control and was using his legs to brace the steering wheel.

He denied dangerous driving but was found guilty by magistrates in Scarborough and was banned from the roads for a year, ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work in the community and fined £625 with a £60 surcharge.

Prosecutor Martin Hawes said it was an "unusual case" in which Newton was observed for 30 seconds on the safety camera video, not counting the time it took the astonished officers to set it going.

He was caught on August 7 last year  at around 6.20pm driving home from work at a garage in Marske, near Redcar.

Mr Hawes said: "You can quite clearly see Mr Newton does not have his hands anywhere near the steering wheel. They’re behind his head.”

He argued Newton could not control the vehicle properly with just his legs.

But Newton claimed he had back problems because of the amount of heavy lifting for his job and needed to stretch, addingL: "I was still in control of the vehicle.”

Afterwards, traffic constable Andy Forth said: "This was one of the worst things I've seen in my seven years as a traffic officer. I was just amazed. I could not believe what I was seeing, and it went on for so long.

There have been over 80 accidents on the A171 in the past five years, 25 serious and six fatal.

Dave Brown head of the Mobile Safety Camera Team, said: “This case demonstrates two things, one is the sheer stupidity of some people who put others in danger, and the other is the ability of our safety camera to capture a range of offences."

Newton was said to be “remorseful” after being found guilty and faces losing his job and home.

North Yorkshire Police and Crime commissioner Julia Mulligan said:" North Yorkshire has some of the most perilous roads in the country and so it is right that our police take action against reckless driving that puts road users in unnecessary danger.

“I welcome the 12-month driving ban and hope it acts as a reminder to all motorists of their responsibilities when they get behind the wheel.

“I would also like to thank the road safety team for making this prosecution possible.”