Police officer dragged six metres by fleeing vehicle
By Bethany Winter | 8th July 2020
A special police constable got his fingers stuck in a car door handle and was dragged six metres when the driver tried to get away from him, a court heard.
Part time officer Andy Taylor and a colleague were suspicious that Jake Woods, 27, may have drugs in his car after they smelt cannabis coming from the vehicle on a petrol station forecourt in Hardwicke, Gloucester.
They tried to detain Woods for a search but he sped off - dragging the officer, whose fingers were caught in the handle, said prosecutor Grace Flynn at Gloucester crown court.
Later, Woods was involved in a second incident at Michaelwood Services and in the Berkeley area of Gloucestershire after a high speed chase which ended with him crashing his car, the court was told.
Woods, 27 of Kingsmead Road, Speedwell, Bristol, admitted two motoring offences and three of assault as a result of the incidents on June 6 this year.
He was sentenced to fourteen months jail suspended for two years and banned from driving for three years.
The prosecutor said: "On Saturday, June 6th Mr Woods was seen acting suspiciously in his Ford Fiesta on a petrol forecourt in the Hardwicke area at 1.30pm by Special Constable Taylor and Police Community Support Officer Chloe Williams.
"He was thought to be driving in an erratic manner and became un-cooperative when the officers tried to detain him for a drug search after smelling cannabis emanating from the vehicle.
"SC Taylor removed the keys from the ignition but then returned the keys to Woods, who put the key straight back into the ignition, and drove off.
"But the special constable's fingers were still stuck in the door handle as he drove away.
"PCSO Williams said she saw SC Taylor being dragged alongside the vehicle for about four to six metres. SC Taylor himself said he was scared of being pulled underneath the vehicle.
"PCSO Williams became frightened when Woods drove straight at her but she managed to get out of the way of the vehicle before he drove off."
The court heard that the incident was likened to that of PC Andrew Harper, who was dragged to his death in August last year at Sulhamstead in Berkshire whilst in the line of duty.
The court was told that the latter part of the incident in Gloucester was also witnessed by two other officers who gave chase. But they were unable to locate Woods at that point.
"However at around 3pm the police officers spotted the vehicle with Woods driving on the A38 in the Hardwicke area, but noticed that he now had a passenger. The police followed the vehicle and put the blue lights and on to indicate to the driver to stop.
"Woods then travelled onto the M5 with the police in hot pursuit. They followed him through the Michaelwood Services onto a service lane and through into a 40mph zone at speeds of 60mph.
"Woods was not driving with any great skill as there was smoke coming from the tyres. He then lost control of the vehicle as it crashed into a wooden telegraph pole. He managed to free the vehicle before he was boxed in by a police car and collided with the force's BMW."
Judge Ian Lawrie QC commented: "This was a calculated act by Woods. He was plainly being obstructive to both sets of police officers."
Lloyd Jenkins defending explained that Woods had panicked, and said: "He panicked in the petrol station forecourt and he panicked again when he was spotted heading for the M5.
"All he had to do was to comply with the police officer's request at the petrol station and none of this would have happened.
"He has since engaged with probation as he now regrets his actions so that a pre-sentence report could be compiled."
Woods pleaded guilty to dangerous driving on Haycroft Lane and Swanley Lane in Berkeley; assaulting SC Taylor, an emergency worker, by beating, the common assault of PCSO Williams, failing to stop when requested to do so by a police officer and intentionally obstructing SC Taylor in the exercise of his powers.
In sentencing Judge Lawrie said to Woods: "The only mitigation of note is that you pleaded guilty at a very early stage.
"Whether your irrational behaviour was you panicking or a bout of anxiety it put the special constable to fear for his life.
"In driving in that manner you would not be here for an assault, you could have caused him significant injury or worse, murder, like the incident we heard about earlier.
"Those officers should be able to go about their normal tasks without being hindered by the likes of you.
"You made matters worse by driving off from the petrol station and getting involved in a high speed dangerous driving pursuit that ended when you collided with a telegraph pole and a police vehicle.
"You were driving under the influence of cannabis, but not enough to be charged with.
"Your offences cross the custody threshold but I feel there is a possibility of rehabilitation which means I can suspend a sentence."
The judge sentenced Woods to a 14-month prison term, suspended for two years. He also subjected him to a community order that included 30 programme days, 12 rehabilitation activity requirement days and a six month drug rehabilitation requirement course.
He will also be subject to monthly judicial reviews in court.
Woods was disqualified from driving for three years from June 8 and ordered to pay £128 victim surcharge.
The judge warned Woods: "I'd like to see a positive outcome from this and not have you squander the opportunity to get your life back on track."
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