A banned driver is behind bars again after being spotted by a police constable at the wheel of a vehicle.

The patrol car officer saw Ben Henderson driving the Vauxhall Astra estate on the opposite carriageway, in Seaham, at 10am on Thursday, July 13 last year.

Durham Crown Court was told the officer recognised him and suspected he was a disqualified driver, which on later checking proved to be correct.

The officer turned around, near the junction with Seaham Police Station, and activated his vehicle’s blue flashing lights.

The Northern Echo: Banned driver Ben Henderson came to police attention  shortly after driving past Seaham Police

Martin Towers, prosecuting, said the officer caught up with the defendant’s vehicle queueing at traffic lights nearby, held up by vehicles ahead waiting to be allowed to move on.

Henderson, aware the police car was behind in the line of vehicles, moved out from the lane he was in and drove forward on the opposite carriageway, flouting the red light, and turning into a side street.

Mr Towers said the defendant was able to make good his escape, but the same officer who was involved in the incident spotted Henderson on July 24 and arrested him.

The Northern Echo:

Henderson, then aged 21, of Ryton Crescent, Seaham, made no comment when interviewed, and denied charges of dangerous driving and driving while disqualified, but he was convicted following a trial before magistrates at Peterlee on November 21.

The case was sent to Durham Crown Court, where the sentencing hearing was told that the now 22-year-old defendant has 64 previous offences on his record, including cases of aggravated vehicle taking, driving while disqualified, dangerous driving and driving while under the influence of excess alcohol.

Annelise Haugstad, in mitigation, said the latest incident was of, “very short duration”, in which there was no prolonged high-speed pursuit and no accident involved.

Miss Haugstad said the defendant had commented that prior to his arrest this had been the longest period for some time where he had been out of custody.

She said this was a sign of the beginning of maturity, as the defendant has been working in construction in the Lincoln area, a job that will remain open to him on his release from his sentence.

Miss Haugstad added that the defendant was aware that the sentence will be a custodial one.

Judge Jo Kidd told Henderson: “You have a terrible record for motoring offences, including aggravated vehicle taking and two previous convictions for dangerous driving.

“You knew you were a disqualified driver and it seems the disqualification and your previous periods in custodial institutes do not deter you in any way.”

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She imposed a 15-month prison sentence and told Henderson it would have only been ten months had he pleaded guilty and not taken the case to a trial.

Henderson was also banned from driving for two years upon his release from prison, at the mid-point of the sentence.

But he was told he must pass an extended re-test should he wish to drive lawfully in future.