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Gloucestershire Business News

Dangerous pursuit across two counties

A 28 year old man who led police on a dangerous pursuit across two Cotswolds counties that lasted for more than half an hour and reached speeds of 105mph has received a suspended six months jail term.

Gloucester Crown Court heard on Thursday (March 4) that three patrol cars and a police helicopter were involved in the chase before Carl Francis of East Way, Steventon, Oxfordshire, finally decided to stop.

It was on January 26th this year that the pursuit began after police in an unmarked vehicle spotted a silver Vauxhall Astra in School Lane, Cirencester, Gloucestershire and suspected the driver had been dealing in drugs.

Prosecutor Méabh McGee said: "The police put on the blue lights and sirens and indicated the driver to stop. Francis was the driver and he made no attempt to stop and so a police pursuit followed.

"Two other police vehicles then joined in the pursuit in wet conditions with light rain falling. On some unclassified roads there was snow on the ground.

"Francis used the nearside verge to pass vehicles belonging to members of the public. He drove through temporary red lights. He continued onto the A417 and A419 reaching speeds of over 100 mph and was manoeuvring through vehicles on the dual carriageway.

"When the road widened to become three lanes a police vehicle attempted to pass Francis to box him in, but he chose to swerve across into his path, causing the officer to drop back.

"Francis' speed increased to 105mph as he passed the police car and charged onto the central reservation - at which point the police helicopter had joined the pursuit.

"Francis continued to cross the central double white lines and drove through at 70mph through a village where the speed limit was 30 mph.

"After the pursuit had lasted for over half an hour, Francis eventually stopped his car and was subsequently arrested by police. A search was made of his vehicle and officers found the remains of a dismantled phone and other items believed to be connected to drugs dealing."

The prosecutor added than when police conducted a search of Francis' Oxfordshire home address they discovered a quantity of cannabis.

Francis gave police a prepared statement in which he stated he had been driving dangerously and had been in possession of cannabis, enough for personal use and explained that he had 'friends who sorted him out'.

James McKenna, defending, said Francis had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and added: "He panicked as his brother died in police custody in 2010. He attempted to drive back to Oxfordshire so he wasn't put in the same position.

"During this ordeal something must have come over him as he stopped the car and opened his arms to the police.

"Obviously common sense prevailed. More by luck than judgement nobody was injured and no damage was done.

"He was remanded in custody at the subsequent court hearing and in prison he contracted Covid-19.

"He takes cannabis on a daily basis. I believe he needs assistance from professional bodies for his drug habit and take advantage of the thinking skills programme.

"He has shown significant remorse and clearly understands his behaviour was appalling.

"Francis had planned on becoming a legal driver later in the year by taking the extended test, but this is not now going to happen."

Francis pleaded guilty to dangerous driving on A417 /A419 on January 26; having no driving licence or insurance and the possession of a quantity of cannabis.

Recorder Sarah Regan told Francis: "You are extremely lucky that nobody was injured. The conditions were extremely wet and dangerous and you chose to drive at 105 mph on multiple occasions.

"You forced members of the public to take evasive action. All of this was your reaction to the police trying to get you to stop.

"You were suspected of drug dealing. But simply trying to outrun the police to evade capture was excessive. You did not have a driving licence or insurance.

"I accept that you are remorseful over what happened. However, you still do not accept that your driving was as bad as it was.

"At your age you should be setting a good example to your child. The way you drove that day is not a good example of the way to drive."

The judge sentenced Francis to six months prison, suspended for 18 months and ordered him to attend 30 programme sessions and complete 120 hours of unpaid work. Francis will also have to attend court monthly for judicial reviews.

Francis was ordered to pay £425 court costs, a victim surcharge of £156 and banned from driving for 18 months

The judge also ordered for the forfeiture of the phone and drugs.

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