A DANGEROUS driver who led police on a high speed chase failed to persuade a jury he had not been at the wheel.

Andrew Welsh, 29, of Poplar Lea, Brandon, was convicted of dangerous driving and driving while disqualified, following a Durham Crown Court trial, last month.

It followed a hazardous high-speed police chase from Stonebridge, on the A690, near Durham, ending on rear gardens in Briar Avenue, Brandon, in the early hours of November 10, last year.

When the Nissan Qashqai came to a halt, the occupants fled, but Welsh, who emerged from the driver’s door, was apprehended.

Disqualified from driving at the time, he said he was a rear-seat passenger, but on stopping, the driver urged the others to swap seats.

He claimed he followed that instruction, but then they all got out of the car, anyway.

The jury did not accept his account and returned guilty verdicts.

As Welsh appeared in the dock for the second and final day of the trial, on September 13, suffering a blackeye, plus other injuries apparently received overnight, Judge Jonathan Carroll adjourned sentence to allow him to receive medical treatment.

Granting him bail, however, the judge warned the defendant to expect to receive a prison sentence on his return, and, should he fail to appear, he would be sentenced in his absence.

When the case was called into Judge Carroll’s court for the sentencing hearing, Welsh failed to appear.

Judge Carroll said, as he had warned the defendant, he would pass sentence in his absence.

Rod Hunt, in mitigation said following the jury’s verdict and his client’s absence, there was little he could say on his behalf.

But, he added: “Thankfully, there were no injuries arising from this.”

Judge Carroll imposed a 20-month prison sentence in Welsh’s absence.

He also issued a bench warrant for his arrest, but, later in the morning, the defendant did appear at court, apologising for his late arrival, having missed his bus.

Explaining he had already passed a prison sentence, the judge told him: “This was a really serious piece of dangerous driving, at speed in residential areas.

“Despite the time, someone could have been killed, not least you or your passengers.”

The judge also told Welsh he was banned from driving for two years and ten months.