Thief crashed stolen taxi in bid to go back to jail for three meals a day

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A THIEF who crashed a taxi he had stolen in a bid to be sent back to jail for “three meals a day” will be spending Christmas behind bars.

David Ratcliffe put lives and a cabbie’s livelihood at risk when he fled from police in the stolen Vauxhall Astra, which he took after the taxi was ordered to take a passenger to the airport in Newcastle, from Sunderland, in the early hours of October 21.

Newcastle Crown Court heard when the driver turned up to the house in Hendon, Sunderland, he was told by his control room the passenger he was about to pick up required help with luggage.

When the cabbie left his car to knock on the door, Ratcliffe, 43, jumped in and sped off.

The car, which was fitted with a tracking device, was quickly caught up with by police and Ratcliffe crashed into a lamp post, causing damage to the vehicle, after ignoring red lights and speed limits.

Ratcliffe, who had pocketed the £70 takings from the cab, was arrested at the crash scene on Toward Road, after he slipped over on the wet ground.

He has said he wanted to go back to jail as he was struggling to cope and had no heating in his house.

Mr Recorder William Lowe, QC, jailed Ratcliffe, of Buddle Terrace, Sunderland, for 18 months after he admitted theft, dangerous driving and driving while disqualified.

The judge told him: “You stole that car and drove it without any regard to the safety of people who might be about on the road, leading to you being chased by the police and you crashing that motor vehicle.

“The owner of that car depended on having his vehicle to be able to make a living.”

Graeme Cook, defending, said Ratcliffe, who has a string of previous convictions, had recently been released from jail and was struggling to cope.

Mr Cook said: “He was desperate, at the time he didn’t have any heating.

“Simply, in his words, he was after three meals a day and a bed, so committed these offences in order to do that.

“He said he simply wanted locked up.”

Mr Cook said Ratcliffe hoped, and has managed, to control his drug problem while behind bars on remand, and would now be better equipped to cope with life on the outside.