A GANG involved in a 'crash for cash' scam walked free from court yesterday after being told by a judge: “Don't be so foolish in the future.”

Five men from Peterlee, County Durham, staged an accident so they could pocket thousands of pounds in insurance pay-outs for injuries.

The fraudsters came close to being jailed when Judge Peter Armstrong said cases involving much bigger sums had led to lengthy sentences.

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Stuart Mackie, Gary Morton, Simon Hubble, Johnathan Miller and Andrew Dodds staged a smash in 2009 so they could reap the benefits.

A taxi driven by Morton, 28, went into the back of a car with 36-year-old Mackie behind the wheel – and the men asked insurers for £16,800.

Mackie and Hubble, 27, had also made false claims with Steven Redhsaw, 36, and Adam Burey, 29, a year earlier in November 2008.

Teesside Crown Court heard that Hubble crashed into a woman’s car in Manor Way, Peterlee, in what was a genuine accident.

Prosecutor Jolyon Perks said the personal injury and damage claims totalling £9,645 and were flagged up as fraudulent by the insurance firm.

Mackie and Hubble pleaded admitted two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and Redshaw, Burey, Morton, 28, Miller, 20, and Dodds, 27, all admitted one count.

Mackie also admitted four counts of fraud for “clocking” cars by altering their mileages to make them worth more as he sold them.

He had also pleaded guilty to concealing criminal property by trying to sell a Ford Transit van that he suspected had been stolen.

Shaun Hanner, 30, admitted concealing criminal property by also having a van that he suspected had been stolen.

Mackie, of Ingram Way, Wingate, near Peterlee, was given nine months in prison, suspended for two years and 150 hours unpaid work.

Hubble, also of Ingram Way, was given six months suspended for two years with 150 hours unpaid work, and was ordered to pay £500 costs.

Miller, of Alston Walk, Peterlee, Burey, of Davies Walk, Peterlee, Redshaw, of Manor Way, Peterlee, and Morton, of Mansell Crescent, Peterlee, and Dodds, of Stainton Way, Peterlee, were all given four months suspended for two years.

Miller, Burey, Morton and Dodds will also do 100 hours unpaid work. Burey was ordered to pay £200 costs and Morton £500.

Hanner, of Alder Road, Peterlee, was given a 12-month community order with 100 hours unpaid work and will pay costs of £250.