A reckless father who allowed his four-year-old son to steer his van as he drove along a busy town centre road has been branded a ‘danger’ to other motorists.

Another driver called police after she spotted Patrick Kearney’s van swerving along the road while someone was continually honking the horn.

When the 41-year-old was arrested for dangerous driving the young lad told police that his father regularly let him get behind the wheel and steer the van while it was moving.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Kearney failed to stop when police tried to pull him over and became aggressive and abusive when they eventually managed to arrest him.

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Nigel Soppitt, prosecuting, said: “He was swerving around the road and the horn was being constantly tooted. The witness saw the defendant had his four-year-old child on his knee.

“He had hold of the steering wheel and was tooting the horn.

“It was quite a prolonged incident with the child being behind the wheel for some time.”

The court heard how when Kearney was arrested, he started calling one officer ‘a black f*****’ before banging his head against the side of the police van.

Mr Soppitt added: “He was referring to officers as lesbians and said - ‘he wasn’t right in the head’. He was being very menacing towards them.”

Officers suspected he was driving under the influence of either drink or drugs but the defendant refused to provide a sample when he was arrested on April 14 this year.

The defendant had a catalogue of previous offences on his record including drink driving, wounding and most recently for making threats to kill while armed with a knife.

The Northern Echo: Patrick KearneyPatrick Kearney (Image: Durham Constabulary)

Kearney, of Thomas Court, Darlington, admitted dangerous driving, ill-treatment of a child, driving whilst disqualified, driving without insurance, two public order offences, and failing to provide a specimen for analysis.

Emma Williams, mitigating, her client was an alcoholic and was working on addressing his addiction problem to beccome a better dad for his son.

She added: “He is very embarrassed that he placed his son in this position.”

Judge Jonathan Carroll sentenced the dangerous driver to a total of 16 months for all offences.

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He said: “You were operating the pedals of the vehicle but you had trusted the steering and horn to the four-year-old child on your knee – that just beggars’ belief.

“Not only were you putting others at risk; you were putting your child at risk. I can’t imagine what was going through your head to think that was appropriate.

“It is quite clear that you are a danger on the road and should be kept off the road until you have amended your attitude.”

Kearney was also banned from driving for three years and eight months before being told he must pass an extended driving test before getting back behind the wheel.