A BANNED driver who has been convicted of driving whilst disqualified 21 times has been spared jail.

Shaun Christopher Crowe appeared at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court yesterday after police caught him behind the wheel of a Renault Kangoo Van two days before Christmas.

The 36-year-old was arrested after a routine stop showed he was disqualified and had no insurance.

Alan Davison, prosecuting, said: “It was 11pm on December 23 when police noticed the van, the defendant showed as being disqualified and the van was uninsured. He does have previous relevant convictions.”

The court heard that Crowe had been fixing the van for a family member and whilst he accepted he did not have insurance, he maintained that he was no longer banned as he had a provisional driving license.

Susanne Hansom, mitigating, said: “He does have 21 previous convictions for driving whilst disqualified, he was very candid about that with me.

“I’m not going to try and persuade you that this is not an appalling record because it is.

“His last disqualification was in 2013. He told police he wasn’t banned, because he thought he had served his ban.

“He has a provisional driving license in his possession. What he didn’t realise and what he still doesn’t fully understand is that because he has a dangerous driving conviction, he needs to sit an extended driving test before he is allowed to drive again.

“He has been doing extremely well. He is not originally from the Durham area and moved here for a fresh start. He now has a partner, who is here today to support him, and they live together with their children."

Ms Hansom added that the defendant had been helping out at a recovery garage and had been offered full-time employment if he passes the extended retest.

Crowe, of Windermere Terrace, Stanley, pleaded guilty to driving whilst disqualified and driving without insurance on December 29 last year.

Chair of the bench, Peter Wilson, said: "This has to stop, clearly this has passed the threshold in terms of custody, so we are going to give you a custodial sentence.

"However, we are prepared to suspend it, which means that you will have it hanging over you for two years. It will be something you have to think about every day from now on."

Crowe was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison suspended for two years. He must also pay £85 court costs and £122 victim surcharge.