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Gloucestershire Business News

Man jailed for dangerous driving in the Cotswolds

A 47-year-old man who is due to have a leg amputated shortly has been jailed for ten months for driving a flatbed truck dangerously through Cotswold villages and lanes after his licence had been revoked because of his disability.

Martin Harwood of London Road, Little Compton, Moreton in Marsh, had only limited use of his left leg at the time of his offence - during which he tried twice to ram a pursuing police car before smashing through a farm gate to make his getaway, Gloucester Crown Court was told on Tuesday (May 16).

His driving in that condition aggravated his offence and made immediate prison necessary even though he is due to have his left leg amputated in the next few weeks, said the judge, Recorder Neil Millard.

"I accept that you will be having your leg amputated shortly" said the Recorder. "But your offending is so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence can be justified. Despite all the mitigation put forward on your behalf I feel unable to suspend this sentence.

"You drove despite your driving licence being revoked on medical grounds. It was suspended because you require an amputation of your left leg.

"You did not have the mobility in your leg to control the vehicle safely during that police pursuit."

Prosecutor Neil Treharne said that during the early hours of Dec 1st last year Harwood was driving in the North Cotswolds and was seen by motor patrol officer PC Gareth Morris on the A44.

"PC Morris spotted a red transit flatbed vehicle without any rear lights being illuminated as it passed him," said Mr Treharne. "He followed the vehicle and indicated to the driver to pull over by activating the blue lights.

"However, the driver, who was later identified as Harwood, chose to ignore this and drove off at speed.

"PC Morris then embarked on a pursuit. The driver of the flatbed vehicle was seen to drive erratically through Bourton-on-the-Hill at speeds of 60mph in a 30mph zone on narrow streets.

"Harwood was seen crossing the central white lines on a bend and he narrowly avoided colliding with an oncoming vehicle.

"The vehicle was followed as it weaved its way through to Moreton-in-Marsh, travelling at speeds in excess of 70mph. When the vehicle reached the Hospital Road junction Harwood reversed towards the police vehicle in an attempt to ram it, but because the officer reacted quickly, this manoeuvre was unsuccessful.

"Harwood then sped off down the London Road and drove the wrong side of a keep left bollard, before driving at 50mph through a 20mph residential zone. The vehicle was followed back onto the A44, heading towards Chipping Norton.

"After a few minutes the vehicle appeared to slow down and then did a U-turn, heading back to Moreton-in-Marsh. But soon it turned right towards Great Wolford.

"Harwood realised he was still being pursued by the police and embarked on another U-turn in the narrow lane. The police car was then positioned to prevent this from happening so Harwood had no choice but to carry on towards Great Wolford.

"He then stopped and attempted again to reverse into the police car at a junction. The officer reacted accordingly and moved away to prevent this from happening.

"Harwood then looped down another road back to the junction with the A44 and headed towards Chipping Norton before embarking on another U-turn back to Moreton-in-Marsh.

"The vehicle then left the main road and turned into a farmyard, smashing through the gates. A passenger jumped out and ran off.

"Harwood then drove through a field and was followed by the police officer, who was in a 4x4 police car. However, he abandoned the pursuit due to the adverse ground conditions.

"Harwood stopped near some caravans on the site. The police officer retreated and waited for back up, which included a dog handling team. Harwood was then arrested from one of the caravans."

PC Morris told the court that the pursuit had lasted 20 minutes.

Alicia Doble, defending, said: "Harwood accepts that his driving on that night was not up to standard and that by driving dangerously he crosses the custody threshold. However, I submit the sentence could be suspended due to his personal circumstances.

"Harwood has had his driving licence revoked on medical grounds. This is because he has a severe ulcer on his left leg which means it will have to be amputated in the coming weeks.

"This was initially caused when he had an accident in 1993 in which his tibia and fibula were broken. It was fixed with a metal plate, but repeatedly gets infected and now the decision has been taken to amputate it.

"He has accepted this and is now on very strong pain killers.

"This operation will take place in a few weeks' time."

Recorder Millard commented: "Driving with a medical condition like that is one of those features that both aggravates the situation, but at the same time is mitigation for any sentence to be suspended."

Ms Doble added: "He wanted to get the vehicle back onto his property, a farm which he looks after. He essentially panicked when he saw the police car and that was the reason he didn't stop. He realises now that this was a huge mistake with serious consequences.

"Largely by luck nobody was injured by his bad driving as there were very few other vehicles on the road at that time.

"He has expressed genuine remorse for his actions and through me he apologises to the court for his bad driving that night.

"I would suggest that his health issues mean he would not be suitable for prison as he is due to have his leg amputated within the next few weeks. The healing process would also take time.

"In all likelihood Harwood will not be driving again with just one leg. He is aware he will be subjected to a lengthy driving ban in any case."

Harwood pleaded guilty to dangerous driving on December 1, 2022, and not having a valid driving licence or third-party insurance on the same occasion.

Recorder Millard told Harwood: "When you were asked to pull over, you sped off. PC Morris describes your subsequent driving as being erratic and frequently you drove at twice the speed limit and crossed over the central white lines.

"It's a matter of sheer luck that nobody was injured. You posed a risk to other road users, especially to commercial vehicles. You had no rear lights. You drove the wrong side of a bollard.

"You also tried to reverse into the police car on at least two occasions. You were trying to disable it to prevent the officer continuing the pursuit. Had it not been for the quick actions of PC Morris, you would have rammed the police vehicle.

"You also conducted a number of U-turns during the pursuit."

Recorder Miller jailed Harwood for ten months and banned him from driving for three years. The disqualification will begin when he is released from prison. Harwood will also have to take an extended retest before he can obtain his licence after the ban ends.

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