Danger driver sped along footpath in van after ‘panicking’

Darren Hargrave
Darren Hargrave

A danger driver caused a public risk when he travelled 300m along a pedestrian footpath in a van.

Darren Hargrave, who had no licence or insurance to be behind the wheel of the Ford motor, "panicked" when he saw a police car and drove "at speed" onto public land near Burdon Lane in Sunderland that is popular with children, families and dog walkers.

CCTV of his route along the public pathway, which was surrounded by grassland and trees, was recorded by a police officer and played at Newcastle Crown Court.

After seeing the footage, Judge Tim Gittins told the 19-year-old: "There could have been children on bikes, people walking dogs.

"They would not have been expecting you, they would not have been expecting a vehicle travelling at speed.

"You would have had difficulty controlling the vehicle and could have caused serious harm to any pedestrian.

"The fact you had no licence and no insurance compounds that matter."

Hargrave, of Wynyard Street, Sunderland, admitted dangerous driving, driving otherwise in accordance with a licence and having no insurance.

The court heard he was out on licence from a previous prison sentence at the time of the driving and has since been recalled to jail.

As a result he has spent over three months behind bars since the offences last October.

Judge Gittins sentenced him to four months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with rehabilitation requirements, a three month, night-time curfew and a 12 month road ban with extended test requirement.

Barry Robson, defending, said Hargrave is aware of the seriousness of his behaviour and is still a young man.

Prosecutor Paul Rowland told the court police had noticed Hargrave behind the wheel of the van at Burdon Lane but had not illuminated blue lights or made an attempts to pull him over.

Mr Rowland added: "The van turned left across a pavement onto a public pathway.

"An officer described that the vehicle accelerated at speed."

Mr Rowland said the police officers did not give chase due to the dangerousness of the situation but followed in the same direction once Hargrave was out of sight.

The van was found dumped and Hargrave was arrested nearby.

He made a full confession during interview and admitted when he saw the police officers he "panicked and didn't want to be stopped".