A man who had used cocaine before taking to the wheel of his car narrowly escaped an immediate prison sentence over a police chase which ensued.

Matthew Barney was driving a Volkswagen Golf which came to police attention by passing through a temporary red light in the Ferryhill area, at 1.30am on April 5 this year.

Durham Crown Court heard that a police vehicle followed the Golf, and once he realised, Barney accelerated, at stages in the chase that followed to beyond 100-miles per hour.

Martin Towers, prosecuting, said such was the defendant's speed on residential streets in Ferryhill that the pursuing officer believed that, despite the time of day, had any other driver pulled out from a side street there would have been a risk of collision.

The Northern Echo:

The defendant left Ferryhill and turned north on the A167, with the officer temporarily losing sight of the Golf near the Thinford roundabout.

Mr Towers said the police driver briefly caught sight of it again in the Tudhoe area, but then, “lost it again”, before an officer in another vehicle spotted the Golf near the Honest Lawyer hotel at Croxdale.

A ‘stinger’ device was placed across the road at Sunderland Bridge and the defendant passed over it but continued to drive at speed.

Mr Towers said Barney brought the Golf to a halt near to a graveyard in Croxdale and was seen getting out of the driver’s side door before running off into darkness, climbing over a metal-spiked fence, which may have caused him an injury.

He was found trying to hide in a wooded area.

When the defendant was taken to a police station he provided a sample showing a reading of more than three times the permitted level of cocaine for driving.

He was also well in excess of the limit for a breakdown product of cocaine.

Although he made no comment when interviewed, the 27-year-old defendant, of Owen Street, Ferryhill, admitted dangerous driving and offences of driving with an excess of cocaine and its breakdown product in his system.

Robin Patton, representing Barney, said despite the speed he reached, because of the time of day with few, if any other road users about, “no-one was actually placed in any danger other than himself.

“He did drive having taken cocaine earlier and realised he shouldn’t have been driving.”

Judge James Adkin told Mr Patton: “It’s one of those cases where a relatively young man behaves in a ridiculous fashion.”

But he said that, fortunately for the defendant, “there was no injury caused to anyone else and no damage to anyone else’s property.”

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Having read character references presented to the court, stating that the defendant is in work and is considered, “a trusted employee”, Judge Adkin said he could just avoid imposing an immediate prison sentence.

He passed a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, but also ordered Barney to complete 200-hours’ unpaid work and pay £250 court costs, at the rate of £50 per month.

A driving ban of three years was put in place and should the defendant wish to legally drive in future he must pass an extended re-test once the disqualification period expires.