A JUDGE has repeated his often-stated ‘mantra’ that drivers ignoring police requests to stop almost without exception face automatic prison sentences.

The comments were made by Judge Christopher Prince, the Honorary Judicial Recorder of Durham, as he was sentencing first-time offender Robert Phillips, who admitted charges of dangerous driving, and driving without insurance or a full licence.

It followed an 11-minute police chase in the early hours of March 11, when Phillips ignored the blue flashing lights and sirens of a patrol car while at the wheel of his mother’s Vauxhall Vectra.

Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, said during the nine-mile pursuit, starting and ending in Shildon, Phillips reached speeds of between 70 and 80-mph in 30-limit built-up areas, completed a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre, took roundabouts in the wrong direction and narrowly missed a police officer who had placed a ‘stinger’ tyre-deflating device across a road.

It ended after he abandoned the car on a track and ran off, hiding in shrubbery.

But, with the aerial support of the police helicopter, he was spotted and arrested.

Duncan McReddie, mitigating, said, knowing he was unsupervised, Phillips, a provisional licence holder only, “panicked” and tried to flee police, fearing arrest.

The court heard that Phillips’ mother, who allowed him to drive her car only when supervised, felt let down by his actions, as he left her with a £150 recovery fee as well as the repair bill.

Mr McReddie said the 21-year-old defendant, of Beech Terrace, Eldon Lane, near Bishop Auckland, pledged to foot the combined bill upon his release.

As Phillips’ has a previous clean record, Mr McReddie urged Judge Prince to pass a suspended prison sentence.

But the judge told him: “One message that this court has repeatedly tried to send out clearly across County Durham, to those who ignore police requirements that they stop driving vehicles, is encapsulated in five words: ‘Stop, or go to prison.’

“You did not stop when required to by police, therefore, you will go to prison.”

He added that it was only through good fortune that no-one was injured, or worse, during the incident.

Jailing Phillips for ten months, he also banned him from driving for two years and five months.