Dangerous driver jailed following police chase around Rugby

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Police officers who gestured to a driver to put his seatbelt on were taken aback when he reacted by putting his foot down and making off at high speed.

Realising there must be more to it than a seatbelt offence, they set off in pursuit of driver Stuart Cunningham who even drove onto a pavement in his bid to get away.

Following his arrest Cunningham pleaded guilty to charges of driving while disqualified, having no insurance, dangerous driving and failing to stop after a collision.

And at Warwick Crown Court Cunningham, 28, of Montgomery Drive, Rugby, was jailed for a total of 20 months and banned from driving for three years.

Prosecutor Lal Amarasinghe said that at 10am on April 8 officers in a marked police car were turning from Lytham Road into St Anne’s Road when they saw an MG hatchback pull out sharply into the junction.

They noticed the driver was not wearing a seatbelt, and gestured to him to put his belt on.

“To their surprise, the defendant drove off at speed towards Bilton Road, so the officers turned round to follow.”

As Cunningham approached the traffic lights at Bilton Road there was other traffic ahead of him, so he drove up the kerb and across a parking area.

Mr Amarasinghe pointed out that, although she was not put at risk, a young mother with a baby in a pushchair had walked past that spot moments before Cunningham drove across the pavement.

As Cunningham drove back onto the road he collided with another car in the junction, but carried on driving into May Lane, which has a 30mph limit, where he accelerated to 50.

Other drivers had to take avoiding action as Cunningham turned into Addison Lane and then Blackwood Avenue, with the MG almost going onto two wheels on the corner.

Concerned for the safety of other people if Cunningham continued to drive in that way to evade them, the officers decided to ease off their pursuit as Cunningham took a sharp turn into Cunningham Way where they lost sight of him.

With the help of the police helicopter, the officers located the MG just off Frobisher Road.

That was about 400 metres from where Cunningham’s girlfriend lived – and enquiries revealed that the car was in the process of being registered to her.

When he was arrested the next day Cunningham, who was on licence at the time from a prison term for assault and has since been recalled to continue serving that sentence, denied being the driver and claimed he had taken the bus to his girlfriend’s home.

Paul O’Keefe, defending, said the car, which was to be registered to Cunningham’s partner, had been parked outside the hostel in Leamington where he was living at the time as a condition of his licence.

He had previously travelled back to Rugby by bus – ‘but on this occasion he took the vehicle, and when he saw the police, he panicked.’

Jailing Cunningham, Judge Richard Griffith-Jones told him: “This driving was particularly bad because, for totally selfish reasons, you set off away from the police, which is itself an aggravating feature.

“In the daytime, when there were people about and other cars about, you ran the severe risk over a considerable period of time of killing or injuring wholly innocent road-users or pedestrians.

“This is a bad case of dangerous driving. The one mitigating feature is that you pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.”