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Friday, 19 December 2014

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Cumbria chase driver could have ‘killed somebody’

A driver who led police on a high speed chase through Penrith countryside “could have killed someone”.

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‘Public duty’: Judge Paul Batty QC praised the two men and the News & Star

Martin David ONeil, 25, of Croft Place, Temple Sowerby, had already admitted dangerous driving when he appeared before Judge Paul Batty at Carlisle Crown Court.

However, he has always denied being drunk - insisting the only reason he refused to stop was because he “panicked” after officers caught him driving the wrong-way down a one-way street.

Kim Whittlestone, prosecuting, told the court that officers had been stationed in a marked police car near the exit to Morrisons car park, Penrith, at about 12.50am on Saturday, November 5.

They spotted a Skoda Octavia car coming out of Cromwell Road, heading towards Castletown, before turning right into Mill Street.

It had gone past two no entry signs.

The Skoda Octavia then led police on a chase out of Penrith and up country lanes.

Eventually officers said their speedometer read 100mph, and the Skoda was still getting further from them.

They lost the car in Newbiggin, the prosecutor explained, and eventually found it parked in Mill Street, Penrith.

ONeil was arrested at his then home in Alexandra Road, Penrith, at 10pm that night.

Gregory Hoare, defending, said his client immediately admitted owning and driving the car, but insisted he was not drunk and did not believe he was driving as fast as officers claim.

Mr Hoare said ONeil had a number of previous motoring convictions, but that there had not been any since 2007.

“For Mr ONeil, this has proved to be such a monumental misjudgement and its repercussions will reach very far,” he added.

Sentencing him, Judge Batty said: “This was a very bad piece of driving.

“ You could have killed someone.

“You outran the police, they weren’t able to stop you to breathalyse you and it wasn’t until the following evening until they were finally able to arrest you.

“I’ve been in this job long enough to understand the realities of life and I don’t for a moment accept that you simply panicked having committed a minor road traffic infringement.”

ONeil was spared custody after a positive pre-sentence report by the probation service.

Instead he was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 12 months and given a 12-month supervision order - including attending a Thinking Skills programme.

He was disqualified from driving for two years, and told he must retake an extended driving test in order to regain his licence in the future.

Judge Batty also order him to pay £400 court costs, at a rate of £20 per week. The first payment must be made within two weeks.

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