A LORRY driver who drove for up to 11 hours without a break has narrowly avoided being sent straight to prison.

Nigel Hopkins removed his electronic tachograph reader from his truck on 14 occasions over a two-month period to ensure he would be able to get home to look after his ill mother, Teesside Crown Court heard.

The 65-year-old was caught when he pulled over on the A19 at the Wellfield Weighbridge, between Thornley and Castle Eden, in County Durham.

Eddison Flint, representing the DVSA, told the court how Hopkins drove an average of eight hours without a break, with the legal limit being no more than six hours, and on one occasion he drove for 11 hours without taking a single break.

Mr Flint told the court the offences, which happened while Hopkins was working for Colin William Gilks Freight between June and August 2017, came to light when an inspector downloaded the data from his tachograph.

He said: “The witness asked the defendant who did the driving and he said an unnamed agency driver but when he was told that the police would need to be called he made an immediate admission.”

Hopkins, of Broomfield Road, Selby, admitted 14 charges of tachograph record regulation breaches.

In mitigation, Adam Walker, said his client was facing major heart surgery and urged the judge to suspend sentence.

The court heard he is no longer able to drive due to a medical condition.

Judge Paul Watson QC passed an eight month sentence suspended for 12 months.

He said: "You put other road users and the public in general at risk. It wasn't once, it was 14 separate occasions you did it."