A JUDGE told a banned motorist the manner of his driving while being pursued by police, “beggars belief”, as he put the lives of other road users at risk.

During the high-speed pursuit James Robert Cowell straddled centre white lines of roads, took a roundabout in the wrong direction and headed southbound in the northbound side of a dual carriageway, narrowly missing an oncoming lorry and another vehicle.

Durham Crown Court heard the six-minute chase in and around Chester-le-Street, shortly after 2am on July 9, came to a conclusion when Cowell turned into a cul-de-sac on a residential estate off Waldridge Road.

He brought his father’s Vauxhall Corsa, taken without permission, to a halt at a dead end, got out and put his hands up as a police officer approached to arrest him.

Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, said throughout the chase a young female companion of Cowell was in the passenger seat and she also emerged from the car at the end of the chase.

The Corsa was driven at 50-miles per hour on 30-limit roads, at 75-mph on a single track lane and at 70-mph heading in the wrong direction of the northbound carriageway of the A167 between Hermitage and Chester Moor roundabouts.

An experienced traffic officer involved in the chase said it was “pure chance” there was not a collision and Cowell’s driving was, “obviously dangerous and disgraceful.”

The court was told the 25-year-old defendant, of Rosewood Terrace, Birtley, has previous convictions for motoring misdemeanours, having twice crashed while over the drink/drive limit for alcohol, also in his father’s car, in both cases, again, taken without permission.

He admitted aggravated vehicle taking, driving disqualified and without insurance.

Lewis Kerr, for Cowell, said he turned onto the wrong side of the dual carriageway in error and so put on his hazard warning lights to warn oncoming road users.

Mr Kerr said Cowell conceded his driving was “reckless”, but Judge Christopher Prince said there were a few other descriptions which could be applied.

Judge Prince told Colwell: “This driving beggar’s belief.

“It is the third occasion you have taken your father’s car and driven dangerously, but this certainly surpasses those others.”

He imposed a 20-month prison sentence and banned Cowell from driving for two years and ten months.