POLICE found a disqualified driver when he abandoned his van after a chase - by following his footprints in the snow.

Lewis Firth refused to stop for a patrol car in Darlington and sped around residential streets and through a red light at a crossing.

Fortunately, a pedestrian had not set foot onto the road as 18-year-old Firth flew past in the white Ford Transit, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Rachel Masters said the van went the wrong way around a roundabout on West Auckland Road, forced other vehicles to take evasive action to avoid a collision, and skidded in the slippery conditions three times.

Firth performed a u-turn to escape from a police road block in Bates Avenue, but later hit a dead-end in Ampleforth Way when he ditched the vehicle and ran off.

Miss Masters told Judge Stephen Ashurst that police followed the teenager's footprints to nearby Selby Crescent where he was arrested.

After being charged and appearing before magistrates for the February 28 offences, Firth was again caught behind the wheel less than two months later.

A police officer saw him drive an Alfa Romeo in the car park of the Archdeacon pub in the Cockerton area of town on April 19, and when he was arrested he had some cannabis on him.

At the beginning of the first incident, Firth was seen by a police community support officer at the North Road retail estate, who knew he was banned from the roads.

Th construction worker drove towards the uniformed woman and seemed to be laughing as he did so, Miss Masters said.

Kelleigh Lodge, mitigating, said Firth has "poor thinking skills" and said he panicked when he saw the police during the earlier incident when he made the "stupid" decision to try to outrun them.

Miss Lodge told Judge Ashurst that he now works, produced a reference from his employer, and said he was in a stable relationship and about to become a father for the first time in October.

"He is well aware of the fact he now faces a prison sentence," said the lawyer. "He does have fixed employment, and had recently passed his three-month probation period.

"His employer is fully aware of him being disqualified from driving and the proceedings at court.

"His employment will not involve any driving of any nature, and he has been warned by his employer that if he is fortunate enough not to receive a prison sentence, he will lose his employment if he gets into any more trouble."

Firth, of Whitby Way, Darlington, admitted dangerous driving, two charges of driving while disqualified and having no insurance, possessing Class B drugs and failing to stop.

He was jailed for ten months, and will have a serve a two-year roads ban after being released, and take an extended driving test.

Judge Ashurst told him: "The way you drove the van that day was exceptionally dangerous. What you were thinking of, I just don't know.

"You went through a red light. Luckily, the pedestrian step onto the crossing. You are lucky you are not facing a very much more serious charge."