Former Sunderland soldier who halted Metro trains during police chase is jailed

Smithson has been jailed for three months.
Smithson has been jailed for three months.

A former soldier who sped past children during a police chase before running onto the railway line has been jailed for three years.

Robert James Smithson was asked to pull over by a police officer while driving a blue Peugeot car in Sunderland.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how, instead of stopping, the 27-year-old raced away from the officer, passing a group of children who were playing by the side of the road, while driving over the speed limit.

When the officer was about to give up the chase, Smithson got out of the vehicle and ran over the Metro train lines, causing trains to halt in both directions.

Omar Ahmad, prosecuting, told the court: "The officer could see that the defendant began to speed up to get away.

"The defendant was driving at a dangerous speed, about 60mph. The speed limit was 40mph. The officer followed the defendant.

"The defendant pulled out of his lane and in to oncoming traffic, causing oncoming vehicles to break.

"The defendant approached a left hand bend where a group of five children were playing on the side of the road.

"The defendant went around this corner at speed and dangerous manner putting the lives of these children at risk.

"The officer followed the defendant around the corner, and was just about to abandon the pursuit as she felt the risk to the was too high, when the defendant stopped his vehicle and began to get out.

"He ran away. The officer pursued on foot. The defendant crossed a railway bridge where the officer lost sight of him."

Mr Ahmad told the court how police officers searched the area and Smithson was later detained. He also faced being sentenced for two other crimes - common assault and breaching a suspended sentence.

The prosecutor said that Smithson punched his former partner twice in the arm and leg while he was already serving a suspended sentence for a previous GBH offence against her.

The court heard how the victim had been drinking in Sunderland with her mum in September last year when they were joined by Smithson.

He got into an argument with the victim about leaving her phone in the takeaway shop when they returned to her home and he punched her twice.

Mr Ahmad said: "The complainant suffered minor bruising to her arm and her leg."

The court also heard that Smithson had already been handed a 24-month sentence, suspended for two years, in 2015 after leaving the same woman with a fractured eye socket.

Smithson, of Rochdale Way, Red House, Sunderland, admitted dangerous driving, common assault and breaching a suspended sentence.

Claire Anderson, mitigating, told the court how Smithson was suffering from post traumatic stress after working as an army machine gunner in Afghanistan.

She said that Smithson, who was in the army from 2008 and 2012, has a seven-year-old daughter with whom he has contact.

Ms Anderson continued: "He's never been in custody before. He's acutely aware he could lose his liberty and if he does he would lose his job at Nissan."

Judge Penny Morland told Smithson that he "caused risk to members of the public, particularly children who were nearby".

She continued: "You went on the Metro lines causing the trains to halt in both directions."

The judge imposed his previous suspended sentence of two years and sentenced Smithson to an additional 12 months for the dangerous driving and common assault.

He was also handed a restraining order prohibiting him from contacting his former partner, and was banned from driving.