A careless driver who took his employer’s van and crashed it into three cars outside a Sunderland church – including one belonging to the priest - has been banned from the roads.
Ian Bird, who was not permitted to drive the van for personal use, caused hundreds of pounds of damage to vehicles parked behind Holy Rosary Church in Abercorn Road, on August 11, Sunderland Magistrates Court heard.
The 30-year-old then dumped the Peugeot Expert van and left the scene on foot.
Prosecutor Ian Lowther said Bird had texted his boss, asking to swap shifts to go to the dentist and was told to leave the van so a colleague could pick it up.
Instead he got behind the wheel, leaving devastation in its path, the court heard.
Mr Lowther said the incident took place at 9.45am, when a visitor from America saw the red van plough into his Renault Clio hire car, which was parked outside the church.
The incident had a massive impact on me and my familyVictim
He then accelerated away colliding with a vehicle driven by Father Michael Humble, the court heard.
“Fr Humble states that he was driving a red Honda Jazz out of the carpark of the church in Abercorn Road when he was struck,” Mr Lowther added.
“Mr Bird then reversed a short distance, then drove straight into the side of a Ford Mondeo on the other side of the road.”
Police arrived to find the van abandoned in the middle of the road, with extensive front-end damage.
“Officers attended the then-home address of the defendant, which had been left insecure,” Mr Lowther said.
“Concerned he may have been injured, officers entered the property which was found to be empty.”
He was later arrested.
Bird’s boss Jonathan Young said: “Shortly after this incident, my main van caught fire due to an electrical fail and was burnt out.
“I have now lost two vans, worth a total of £7,000, in the space of 10 days.
“I employ two people. If my business fails they are out of a job.
“Ian Bird was well aware he had no permission to use the vehicle.”
The following month, on September 14, Bird was caught driving a Vauxhall Vectra with 1,071 microgrammes of BZE and 43 microgrammes of cocaine in his blood..
On that occasion he was found sitting shoeless in his damaged car on the slip road from the A182 to the A690, unable to explain what had happened.
Bird, of Peebles Road, Plains Farm, pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicle taking, driving without due care and attention, failing to stop after an accident, failing to report an accident and two counts of drug driving.
Anna Haq, defending, said Bird agreed he did not have permission to drive the van at the time.
She added: “He fully accepts he made off from the scene at this time. He should have stopped at the time to provide details.”
In relation to the drug driving offences, Mrs Haq said Bird was only trying to get the vehicle to a safe place.
Bird was sentenced to 16 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with 10 days’ specified activity and nine months’ drug rehabilitation.
He was also banned for 24 months and was told to pay £920 compensation to cover the vehicle owners’ insurance excesses, £115 surcharge and £85 costs.