A BANNED driver who was found behind the wheel by police said he was on his way to help a friend struggling with mental health issues.

Lewis Williams was stopped on the A689 in Bishop Auckland on the evening of Sunday, August 4, driving a Nissan Almera.

The 24-year-old appeared at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court yesterday charged with driving whilst disqualified and without insurance.

Laura Lax, prosecuting, said police noticed the car because the rear lights were broken. She said: “The officer followed the vehicle but it failed to stop, after a few minutes it did stop and Mr Williams told the officer he panicked when he saw the blue lights and didn’t know where to pull over.”

Williams, of Derwent Road, Ferryhill, pleaded guilty to both charges.

A probation officer told the court: “He tells me that on the night of August 4 a friend turned up at his house and told him his friend had been drinking and they needed to go to them. He made the decision to take his friend because his own father took his own life last year and he does not want anyone else to go through what him and his family are going through.”

Calum Terry mitigating said: “This Friday it will be one year since his father took his life. He made the decision to drive the short distance to get to his friend's house. He did not realise he was still disqualified but accepts that fully now.”

Chair of the bench Kevin Radford banned Williams from driving for 12 months. He was also given a 12-month community order and a curfew for four weeks and must pay £85 costs and £90 victim surcharge.