Window cleaner jailed for dangerous driving

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A WINDOW cleaner who sparked two police chases in as many weeks in his works Transit van has been locked up for a year.

Darren Stewart, who officers believed had been drunk both times, had almost run down a police officer in the first pursuit and nearly rammed a police car in the second. The chases were in and around Burnley town centre, in built-up areas and the defendant had passengers each time, the town’s crown court heard.

The hearing was told Stewart struck the first time late on a Friday night and later told police he did it because he thought there was a distress warrant out for him and he didn’t want to get arrested and be kept in custody all weekend. The second time was just hours after he appeared in court and had been bailed and when officers caught up with him that time, he smelled strongly of alcohol, couldn’t speak properly and refused to give a breath test.

Stewart (28), of Highfield Crescent, Barrowford, admitted two counts of dangerous driving and one of failing to provide a specimen. He was banned for three years and must take an extended retest.

Miss Sarah Statham (prosecuting), said at 10-50 p.m. on January 6th, police started to follow the defendant after he went round a roundabout at speed. He was all over the road and weaving from left to right on Trafalgar Street and officers thought he might have been drinking. As he approached Gannow Top roundabout other vehicles had to take evasive action, he went through red lights, skidded on a left hand bend and almost had a crash.

Stewart swerved sharply into Accrington Road, the van stopped outside a pub, two passengers got out and three officers went towards the vehicle. He then drove off at speed and one officer had to jump out of the way. The defendant mounted the kerb, made off and police lost him. An officer who had got to the open driver’s window before Stewart sped off said he appeared drunk, his eyes were glazed and he looked vacant. The defendant was arrested the day after and claimed he had had one pint to drink.

Miss Statham said Stewart appeared in court on January 17th and at 2-10 a.m. the next day one of the officers recognised the van being driven from Padiham to Burnley at speed. She and her colleague followed in an unmarked vehicle.

The defendant turned sharply into a residential street and mounted the pavement. A marked police car took up the pursuit using its lights and sirens. Stewart drove erratically down various streets. The van then drove towards the unmarked police vehicle, did a U-turn and drove at the marked vehicle, forcing the driver to have to make a quick reverse. The van was abandoned nearby and Stewart was detained a short distance away. The defendant, who had 19 previous convictions, was questioned the day after and largely made no comment.

Mr Philip Holden, for Stewart, said fortunately there were no accidents and the driving was over a relatively short distance.

The offences appeared to have been an extreme reaction to the death of the defendant’s mother, last December. He had started drinking heavily and taking drugs from time to time. The barrister continued: “He was in a highly charged emotional state. I accept it was an entirely inappropriate way to behave following his bereavement.”