A MAN who escaped from a police van after he was arrested on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon has been given a 12 month community order and will do 40 hours unpaid work.

Simon Pugh was stopped by officers as he drove an Audi car along Station Lane, in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, at about 4.20pm on Boxing Day last year.

Police found a two foot length of wood secreted by the driver's seat and became suspicious, arresting Pugh and putting him in their police van.

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However a door was insecure and Pugh ran off, not being re-arrested until the next day, prosecutor Rachel Masters told Teesside Crown Court.

The court heard how Pugh's explanation that the wood actually belonged to his father and was being used in building work was true.

Pugh, 23, of Forrester Close, Hartlepool, admitted escaping custody and said he had panicked. No evidence was offered in respect of a charge of possessing an offensive weapon.

Jim Withyman, mitigating, said Pugh apologised for his stupidity.

“You won't be seeing Mr Pugh before these courts again,” he predicted.

Judge Peter Armstrong said the defendant had been very foolish to run away, but said he had accepted his explanation that he had panicked and run off.