A DISQUALIFIED driver who got behind the wheel of a car to go to his daughter's birthday was discovered to have a knife in the vehicle when he was stopped by police.

Drug addict James Mangle was pulled over in his Suzuki Swift on September 4 last year as he returned home from the party.

Peter Sabiston, prosecuting, said a search of the car revealed a kitchen knife which was seized by officers.

The court heard how originally Mangle was facing a charge of possession of a knife but Mr Sabiston offered no evidence as the blade had already been disposed of by Durham Constabulary before the hearing.

Mangle was due to go on trial for possession of the knife.

"Sadly, the only image we have is a poor quality black and white photograph, given what he has said in his interview and the fact that the prosecution are not in a position to give a description of the knife, the Crown has taken the view there is no evidence to put against the defendant as we don't have the knife so he would severely prejudiced if we were unable to show a jury," he said.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the 38-year-old had a lengthy record of driving offences and theft of and from vehicles.

The judge heard how Mangle was given a community order in March for other driving matters.

Mangle, of Harris Street, Darlington, pleaded guilty to driving whilst disqualified, driving without insurance and failing to provide a specimen.

Martin Towers, mitigating, said his client had attempted to give a blood test, however, it was unsuccessful.

He said: "He has always said that the knife was in his car having been used to cut his daughter's birthday cake. If it was examined they would have seen there was still icing on it."

Mr Towers added Mangle was trying to address his drug problem as he was facing the prospect of losing his leg or even death.

Judge Stephen Ashurst said: "Underlying everything is the major drugs problem which has created chaos in your life and you would be living with your family otherwise but until you sort yourself out then life will continue to be difficult for you."

Mangle was given a 12-month community and drug rehabilitation order.