A BANNED driver had to be cut free from a car he crashed through a fence while over the drink drive limit, a court was told.

Tony Burns sneaked into a house in Esh Winning while the occupier was sleeping and stole the keys to a Seat Leon, parked outside, in the early hours of October 22.

It came to police attention after the Leon ploughed through a fence in nearby Ushaw Moor at 4.30am.

Durham Crown Court heard that Burns was found stuck in the driver’s side, while the passenger door was badly damaged.

Anthony Pettengell, prosecuting, said Burns initially refused to give his details, but did so when emergency services cut him free.

He failed a roadside breath test and made no comment when interviewed.

But the 26-year-old defendant, of Braunespath Estate, New Brancepeth, admitted drink driving, driving while disqualified and without insurance when he appeared before magistrates.

He initially claimed someone approached him within an hour of the burglary and gave him the car keys.

It was only at a more recent crown court plea hearing that he also admitted burglary of the house, theft of the car and damaging property.

The court heard his nine past offences include two each of drink driving and driving without insurance, one of dangerous driving and one of failing to stop when required by police.

Stephen Hamill, for Burns, told the court: “It’s clear he has serious underlying issues surrounding alcohol and substance misuse, and, in this case, alcohol has not only impaired his memory, but also his judgement.”

Urging the judge to pass a non-custodial sentence Mr Hamill said Burns is a sub-contractor who has been approached with an offer of fixed work as a ground worker, which would enable him to make a compensation payment to the vehicle owner.

But Judge Ray Singh said he entered the property, took the car keys and drove the vehicle while, “considerably in drink.”

“You were a disqualified driver, driving that vehicle without insurance and, in doing so, caused damage to a fence and roadside furniture.

“You were attempting to run a somewhat absurd defence that someone approached you an hour after a burglary and you drove that car, but you saw common sense and pleaded guilty.”

Imposing a 12-month prison sentence, Judge Singh also banned Burns from driving for three-and-a-half years.