A MOTORIST finally paid the price today (Friday, January 17) for repeatedly flouting driving bans.

Simon James Smith was jailed for a total of 17-and-a-half months after Durham Crown Court heard he breached a suspended sentence for the second time by driving while disqualified.

The court was told passing police motor patrol officers spotted Smith at the wheel of a car on the opposite carriageway on the A688, between Durham and Spennymoor, at 12.40pm on July 15 last year.

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Having turned round to pursue Smith’s car, the officers came upon it as he was trying to swap places with his partner, who had been the front seat passenger.

Sam Faulks, prosecuting, said despite initial prevarication, Smith conceded he drove the car from Durham Services.

He admitted driving while disqualified, but initially claimed he only took over at the wheel as his partner, a fully qualified and insured driver, suffered an asthma attack.

But, appearing at the court for a trial of issue, 27-year-old Smith, of Hawkins Road, Murton, east Durham, abandoned the asthma attack explanation.

Mr Faulks said the conviction put Smith in breach of suspended prison sentences imposed for theft of a Satellite Navigation system, fuel and alloy wheel trims from vehicles, in June and July, 2011, as well as for driving while disqualified and without insurance, in a police chase through Murton, on May 9, last year.

The court heard he has three previous convictions for driving while disqualified, dating from 2006 and 2007.

Paul Cross, mitigating, said Smith made early admissions, although he accepted he initially delayed proceedings with the asthma attack account for the offence in July.

Mr Cross said Smith’s partner is expecting a child in April and he is to start a factory job on Monday (January 20) which would improve the family finances.

But, Judge Christopher Prince told Smith he had finally run out of chances.

“You have a bad record and the offences we’re dealing with today took place only eight weeks after you were given a second suspended prison sentence.

“There appears a high risk of you re-offending in future.

“It’s quite clear you have no regard whatsoever for court orders and suspended sentences.”

Passing consecutive prison sentences of nine, four-and-a-half, and four months, Judge Prince also banned Smith from driving for further three years.