AN asylum seeker at the wheel of a stolen BMW led police on a high-speed late-night chase on the A1(M) and A19 in County Durham, a court heard.

During the pursuit, two police vehicles were damaged and the BMW was driven over a stinger tyre-deflating device, before it left a road and crashed through a fence.

Durham Crown Court heard the trio of occupants fled, but driver, Harem Hassan, who was left wearing only a single training shoe, after one became stuck under a pedal, was detained.

He gave a positive test for the level of cannabis in his system, exceeding the permitted limit for driving.

Iraqi-born Hassan, 24, who has been in the UK since 2016 seeking asylum, was jailed at the court yesterday after admitting dangerous driving, drug driving, no insurance and driving other than in accordance with the licence.

Peter Sabiston, prosecuting, said events arose after the BMW was spotted by police, heading northwards on the A1(M) at junction 59, near Newton Aycliffe, at midnight, on November 10, last year.

It was flagged as having been stolen in the south of England.

A police patrol vehicle followed it, activating lights and siren as it neared junction 60, at Bradbury, but it sped away on the A689 towards Sedgefield, where it went completely round a roundabout, as if the driver was lost.

The BMW undertook slower moving vehicles ahead, and items were seen to be thrown from the car.

Despite going over the stinger device it continued with one tyre deflating, swerving to the nearside and squeezing past a police vehicle.

It travelled on the wrong carriageway of the A689, before being righted, and collided with another police vehicle at one stage before turning onto the A19.

The BMW made a late manoeuvre to turn off the A19 at the A179, where it later swerved off the road and went through a wooden fence into a field.

When police caught up with Hassan he tested positive for cannabis and he told officers he was an asylum seeker and used the drug daily to help relieve pain in an arm injury arising from a stabbing.

He said he was too scared to stop when police began to chase, and the court was told police estimated his speed reached at least 97-miles per hour during the pursuit.

The court heard he bought the car for £400 two days earlier and was driving with two passengers, travelling north to meet friends in Newcastle.

Paul Cross, mitigating, said Hassan was a legitimate asylum seeker, now staying at a hostel in Oxford.

He said he has no previous convictions and is unlikely to trouble the courts again.

Judge James Adkin said it was “too serious” a piece of bad driving, at, “grossly excessive speeds”, putting lives of other road users at risk.

Imposing a 12-month prison sentence, he also banned Hassan from driving for 18 months.

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