A man who sped away from police when they tried to pull him over when he was riding an off-road motorbike has narrowly avoided an immediate prison sentence.

Leon Francis rode through red lights before mounting the pavement after police activated their blue lights when they spotted the motorbike had no number plate or lights.

The 31-year-old biker raced away from police before he came to a halt and was arrested following a short foot chase, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Caroline McGurk, prosecuting, said: “The defendant made off and there was a short pursuit that lasted a few minutes.

“He failed to stop and drove dangerously through red lights forcing other road users to brake to avoid collisions.

“At one point he mounted the pavement despite pedestrians being on the path. The bike stopped and he attempted to run off but was arrested after a short foot chase.

“When he was searched cannabis was recovered from his person.”

The court heard how Francis was spotted at traffic lights on York Road in Hartlepool at around 1.20pm before he ‘panicked’ and sped off.

Francis, of Chatham Road, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, failing to stop, driving without a licence, driving without insurance, and possession of cannabis following his arrest on May 6 last year.

Stephen Constantine, mitigating, said his client’s criminality has been deescalating in recent years and urged the judge to spare him from immediate custody.

He said: “He is somebody who understands that you could deprive him of his liberty but this is a plea for mercy on his behalf.

“He tried to do good buying his son the motorbike. He was road testing it and then panicked.”

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Recorder Andrew Walker sentenced Francis to eight months in custody suspended for 18 months.

He said: “You chose to try and make off, riding your motorbike on the public road in Hartlepool. You had no driving licence or insurance; you had taken cannabis and the bike was not displaying a number plate or lights.

“Neither you nor the bike should have been on the roads in Hartlepool.”

Francis was also ordered to carryout 100 hours of unpaid work, attend 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days, and was banned from driving for two years.