A MAN caught with a replica AK47 in his car after a high-speed police chase was told by a judge to be more careful about how he 'picked his friends' in future.

James Durose believed he was transporting a fully operational automatic weapon on behalf of a criminal gang when he fled the police at speeds of up to 120mph.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the 26-year-old was driving south on the A19 away from the Middlesbrough area when police attempted to pull him over.

However, the defendant panicked and attempted to evade capture and led police on a high-speed chase onto the A1M before finally being stopped near Wetherby.

The court heard that Durose thought he was transporting the weapon for the gang who were intent on using the weapon to either intimidate people or to carry out a serious crime.

Judge Stephen Ashurst told Durose that he was lucky that the weapon was indeed an imitation weapon otherwise he would have been facing a significantly longer jail sentence.

He said: "You knew you were transporting a weapon for someone else. You thought it was a real gun but it turned out to be a replica AK47. What it was destined to be used for and who it was destined for – it was not clear.

"You got yourself involved in something that involved people involved in serious criminality.

"You believed you were carrying a genuine gun when it was in fact an imitation firearm."

Sentencing Durose to 12 months in prison for possession of an imitation automatic weapon, the judge warned the defendant that he would have been facing a minimum of seven years in prison if the automatic weapon had been real.

The judge added: "When you realised the police were attempting to stop your vehicle, you panicked and put your foot down and drove in a dangerous manner.

"You tried to shake the police off but you didn't succeed, they managed to block you in and bring you to a halt without causing any damage to any vehicles.

"The police did not discover the item in your car until you told them you had a weapon in the vehicle. If you had not told them about it, it may not have come out at all.

"It's sheer good fortune on your part that the gun turned out to be an imitation weapon and otherwise the resulting sentence would have been much longer.

"This case will be quite a lesson to you about the care with how you pick your friends in the future."

Durose, of Longhirst, Middlesbrough, was also sentenced to a six month consecutive sentence for dangerous driving, banned from driving for two and a half years and given no additional penalty for possession of cannabis.