AN unlicensed teenage driver led police on a dangerous high-speed seven-mile chase in a white van while under the influence of drugs.

Connor Swainson, who claimed he was “in a dark place” at the time, ended the incident by ramming into two police vehicles.

Durham Crown Court was told the Transit-type van was initially spotted leaving the scene of an incident as police travelled on the A688, towards Bowburn, at 7pm on November 11, 2019.

Swainson ignored signals to stop and accelerated to 70-mph, overtaking dangerously and driving down the middle of the road, almost colliding with oncoming motorist s.

Uzma Khan, prosecuting, said Swainson drove straight on at temporary traffic lights, headed towards oncoming vehicles, forcing drivers to take precautionary action, overtook on blind bends and drove over roundabouts.

Eventually two police vehicles tried a “box” manoeuvre on the B1278, near Trimdon Village, but Swainson reversed into both, causing one driver to suffer slight whiplash injuries on impact.

Swainson, who had a female passenger, was arrested and gave a positive test for the presence of cocaine and cannabis, but further blood analysis could not be made as he was said to be prone to feinting when injected.

When interviewed, Swainson largely gave “no comment” replies.

Miss Khan said the bill for damage to the police vehicles was £5,432, while there was also the cost of the deploying the force helicopter.

Swainson, now 19, of Gladstone Terrace, Coxhoe, admitted dangerous driving, plus no insurance or licence.

Lewis Kerr, mitigating, said the defendant, who has no previous convictions, was aware he behaved, “in a, frankly, extremely foolish way” that evening, but explained he was, “in a dark place” due to personal issues.

Mr Kerr said since the incident Swainson has set up a DIY business and is faring well. He urged Judge James Adkin to avoid passing an immediate custodial sentence.

But, imposing an immediate one-year young offenders’ institution sentence, Judge Adkin said he had to send a deterrent message to young drivers that they must stop when police signal, adding that Swainson endangered the lives of the police, other road users, himself and his passenger, by the manner of his driving that night.

He was also banned from driving for 18-months.