Pontypool petrol thief in 19 mile high speed police chase avoids jail.
10:45am Sunday 27th October 2013 in News
A petrol thief who led police on a dangerous 19 mile high speed chase when they tried to stop his car has walked free from court.
Andrew Hodges, 33, Woodview Court, Pontypool, raced off from Gloucester and kept police at bay until he reached Lydney and was stopped by a stinger device on the road.
During the chase down the A38 through Minsterworth, Westbury, Newnham and Blakeney, he drove at more than twice the speed limit through the villages and he deliberately rammed a police car, causing £733 damage.
Hodges admitted three charges of making off from petrol stations in Gloucester without paying for a total of £143 worth of fuel on 23rd, 25th and 26th Aug last year.
He also admitted dangerous driving on 28th Aug, failing to stop for police, having only a provisional licence and criminal damage.
Recorder John Trevaskis sentenced him to 9 months jail suspended for 2 years, ordered him to do 100 hours unpaid work and placed him under supervision for two years.
He also banned him from driving for 18 months and told him he must take a 'thinking skills' course.
Hodges was ordered to pay compensation of £733 to Goucestershire police and £143 to the garages he bilked.
"This was quite frankly an appalling piece of driving on your part,"
said the Recorder. "It is no credit to you whatsoever that no-one was killed or seriously injured. Nor was any property seriously damaged as a result of your manner of driving.
"You knew that the police wanted to stop you and you deliberately chose to try to evade them over a distance of 19 miles along roads which are clearly unsuited to drive on in that manner or at the speed you were going.
"You forced police officers to take great risks with their own personal safety and you sought to frustrate their efforts to slow you down and make you stop."
The Recorder said he found it disturbing that Hodges had never bothered to drive legally since losing his licence for offences committed as a newly qualified driver 11 years ago.
"You chose not to take a test again and since then you have been driving on the roads without a proper licence to do so. That shows a wanton disregard for road safety."
Prosecutor Julian Kesner had told the court that police in an unmarked car signalled Hodges to stop on 28th Aug after recognising his car as the one that had driven away from 3 petrol stations without paying.
It was afternoon rush hour as Hodges raced out of Gloucester along the Over Causeway and onto the A48.
Two police cars formed a 'tactical box' around his car to try to stop him but he deliberately collided with the nearside of one of the vehicles to get away.
He weaved in and out of lanes on the dual carriageway, he crossed double white lines on the A48 and he went to the wrong side of a keep left bollard in Minsterworth.
He mounted verges, drove through villages at twice their speed limits, and went at 80mph past the Severn Bore pub.
He was also doing 80 as he left Westbury, overtaking other vehicles.
He took blind bends on the wrong side of the road and went through Blakeney at 60mph, Mr Kesner said,.
Just before the Lydney junction police laid a stinger and finally brought him to a halt after a 20 minute chase.
Gemma Walsh, defending, said that having got away with taking petrol on the first occasion he did it again twice and then panicked when police spotted him.
"He was embarassed, ashamed, frightened and he panicked when he saw the blue lights," she said,
Hodges had been in Gloucester visiting relatives in the city and in Cirencester at the time, she added.
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