DURHAM'S chief constable helped detain a shoplifter with no driving experience who took to a car to escape a pursuing store security guard.
But Louise Turton’s spontaneous getaway attempt had almost disastrous consequences as the Hyundai careered round the car park outside Sainsbury’s, at the Arnison Centre, Durham, on a busy Saturday morning.
Durham Crown Court heard she collided with another car, just missed a mother and daughter on foot before coming to rest mounted on a bollard in front of the main store entrance.
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Turton was arrested by an off-duty detective assisted by Chief Constable Mike Barton, who happened to be shopping at the centre.
As she made her way to the police station she apologised and confessed she had been on a “trolley dash”, attempting to steal £180 worth of shopping.
But she panicked on being confronted by the security officer in the car park, getting into the driver’s seat of the Hyundai, the engine of which was still running, when her sister and her sister’s boyfriend got out to challenge the guard.
Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, said Turton’s mother was still in the back seat during the short-lived escape bid.
Turton told police none of her family members was aware she failed to pay for the shopping, explaining their reaction in challenging the security guard as they pulled up to pick her up.
Mr Dryden told the court: “She explained she could not drive and had no driving experience or a licence of any sort.
“She simply realised the door was open and the engine was running, but she said all she knew was that there was a steering wheel and keys.
“After the incident she said the pedestrian with the child remonstrated with her and she said she hoped her little girl was ‘okay’.”
The court heard that as a result of her arrest she was returned to prison to see out the un-served part of a 16-month custodial sentence imposed for wounding her partner, and is not due for release until September.
Twenty-year-old Turton, of Keir Hardie Avenue, Stanley, admitted theft, dangerous driving, and having no insurance or driving licence, arising from the car park incident, on March 15.
Chris Baker, mitigating, told the court: “It’s conceded it was a serious, but short-lived piece of driving and it’s only through luck that no-one was injured.
“She’s aware that apart from her recall, these new matters cross the custody threshold of their own right.”
Adding a further 12-months’ custody to her sentence, Recorder Tahir Khan told Turton: “Despite the best efforts of the security guard to detain you, you jumped into the driver’s side of the car and embarked on a totally reckless course of behaviour when you have never driven a car before.
“It was a highly dangerous, reckless thing to do.
“As it is, you weren’t behind that wheel of that car too long, but it was dangerously out of control and it’s only through good fortune no-one was injured.”
Turton was also banned from driving for a year.