A DRINK driver appeared uncertain whether he wanted to take part in a police pursuit in the early hours of the morning, a court heard.

The Vauxhall Corsa driven by 28-year-old Shaun Michael Whitfield came to the attention of a police patrol driver as it slowed on a roundabout on the A688 at Bishop Auckland, at 3am on April 1.

Durham Crown Court was told the officer formed the view the driver was trying to remain out of view, before taking the fourth exit, without indicating.

Uzma Khan, prosecuting, said a check on the police computer system, confirmed the car was registered in Whitfield’s name, but flagged up that it was uninsured.

Miss Khan said at traffic lights the car briefly remained stationary, further arousing the officer’s suspicions that the driver was trying to avoid being detected.

The Corsa turned into an Asda store car park followed by the officer, who applied the lights and siren on the police vehicle.

Whitfield drove round the store car park several times in circles, before exiting dangerously onto South Church Road, where the manner of his driving appeared “erratic”.

He went over a small bridge before exceeding the 60-miles per hour limit on Newton Cap Bank, before heading into a residential area at up to 70-mph, in 30-limit stretches.

A second police vehicle was summoned and the driver tried to block Bridge Street, but Whitfield turned into the opposite carriageway and then performed a u-turn to drive back on himself.

The Corsa was seen heading down a farm track near Howden-le-Wear, where police followed to find it in a ditch next to a damaged gatepost.

Miss Khan said the male driver, who was recognised as the man at the wheel earlier, and a female passenger were seen walking away.

Whitfield was approached and accused of being the driver of the crashed car, to which he swore and said: “Prove it”.

The car keys were found in his possession and he failed a roadside breath test, with his lowest reading almost three times over the drink drive limit.

He struggled in the police van but was heard to say: “I should have just pulled over.”

Although he gave “no comment” replies at the police station, claiming he could not remember aspects of the incident, the defendant, of Laburnum Avenue, Willington, admitted dangerous and drink driving, failing to stop, no insurance and driving other than in accordance with the licence.

Simon Perkins, mitigating, said the defendant has gone almost ten years without offending and has no driving convictions.

Mr Perkins added that he was in work and could pay compensation for damage to the farm fencepost.

Judge James Adkin said it seemed to him that Whitfield was unsure whether to stop or drive away, worried that he would be caught over the limit.

He imposed a ten-month prison sentence, suspended for two years and ordered Whitfield to undergo 30 probation-run rehabilitation activity days and abide by a five-month 7pm to 7am home curfew.

Whitfield, who was banned from driving for 18 months, must also undergo a six-month alcohol treatment programme and pay £400 compensation to the farmer whose gatepost was damaged.