Man (40) jailed after Burnley car chase

Mark Devlin. (S)
Mark Devlin. (S)

A car thief who sparked a police chase which put lives at risk and ended with a smash and dramatic arrest footage filmed by an American TV star, has been jailed for a year.

Mark Devlin (40), a “reformed” career crook who struck after he started taking heroin again, was at the wheel of a family’s £10,000 Vauxhall Zafira, when he put officers, other road users and pedestrians in danger as he tried to avoid being caught in the lunchtime pursuit.

He had clocked up about twice the speed limit in a busy residential area of Burnley, gone on the wrong side of the road and forced oncoming traffic onto the pavement to avoid a head-on crash.

Devlin had ended up ramming a police dog vehicle and a patrol car after he lost control and crashed at the junction of Accrington Road and Rossendale Road. Police had tried to box him in, but he was still attempting to escape, the town’s crown court heard.

Devlin continued to make repeated efforts to get away, refused to comply with officers and go quietly and had to be tasered.

The tail-end of the incident and police making arrests was filmed by Storage Hunters presenter Jesse McClure and the footage went viral on the internet.

The hearing was told police had started to follow the stolen vehicle on the M65 and Devlin had mounted the pavement to avoid a stinger put down after he came off at junction 10. The chase was filmed by police on a dashboard camera.

Devlin, who has 115 previous offences on his record, had admitted aggravated vehicle taking on April 21st, at Burnley Magistrates Court and the defendant, of Albert Street, Burnley, had been committed for sentence.

He was banned for two years by Judge Beverley Lunt who told him people’s lives were genuinely put at risk and said: “You didn’t care about anybody’s safety. All you were interested in was yourself.

Sentencing, Judge Lunt told the defendant: “You created a very real and obvious risk of causing serious injury to police officers, to other road users desperately climbing onto the pavement to try and get away from you and, of course, pedestrians.

“Your determination to escape was entirely responsible for all this dangerous driving.”

Devlin’s passenger, Stephen Starkie, had earlier appeared before Burnley magistrates with a bandaged left arm after the incident.

The hearing was told by his solicitor he had been “attacked” and bitten by a police dog after he was dragged from the stolen car.

Starkie, of Coal Clough Lane, Burnley, had earlier pleaded guilty to allowing himself to be carried in a vehicle taken without consent, on April 21st, before the lower court.

The defendant, who has 61 previous offences, was given a four week curfew by the bench, between 7pm and 7am, seven days a week.

Before the hearing at Burnley Crown Court, Devlin, who had been out of trouble since 2010 until the incident, spoke of his “massive regret” and “anger” with himself over what he had done and also the upset he had inflicted on his family by his actions and the media attention they attracted.

Devlin continued: “My mother was devastated. I had spent 15 years away in prison and the four years was the first time I had been out.”

The hearing was told the Zafira was owned by Elizabeth Wilson, her partner had driven it and it had been left locked and secure on Hawthorn Road, Burnley, the previous night.

At 6-45am, on April 21st, it was discovered the car had gone, police were called and officers in the area were alerted.

Prosecutor David Clarke told the crown court that just before 12-30pm, two officers drove to junction 10 of the M65 and waited at the fly-over.

Within a few minutes or so, they saw the Zafira heading eastbound, caught up with it and saw two men on board.

The vehicle came off at junction 12, went round a roundabout and went back onto the motorway westbound, travelling at between 50 and 55mph at that point.

Back at junction 10, the vehicle turned off the M65 again and a police officer threw a stinger in front of the vehicle.

Mr Clarke said: “It took evasive action and mounted a grass verge, drove round it and accelerated.”

The prosecutor said police in the initial vehicle activated their blue lights and at that stage a Renault Clio had to brake to avoid a collision.

The defendant forced his way through heavy traffic heading into Burnley and went onto Accrington Road.

He was doing 50mph on a single lane 30mph road, overtaking large vehicles and causing oncoming traffic to take evasive action, Devlin drove straight over a roundabout, onto the wrong side of the road and ignored Keep Left bollards, forcing oncoming traffic to drive onto the pavement.

The prosecutor went on: “He continued, tried to take a left turn around some stationary traffic into Rossendale Road, drifted onto the opposite side of the carriageway, mounted the pavement and struck a road sign and an electrical junction box.”

Police effectively tried to box the defendant in, an officer got out and ran over to the Zafira, but the car started moving again and accelerated forward into a police vehicle. It had already reversed into another officer’s car.

Mr Clarke said police continued to try and stop Devlin, smashed the driver’s window with a baton and opened the door. The defendant still tried to get away and officers were so concerned about potential dangers, he was warned a taser would be used.

He still didn’t comply, it was deployed, he struggled, was restrained and was then handcuffed. The prosecutor added: “He refused even to be interviewed.”

Peter Warne (defending) said Devlin had panicked. The barrister told the judge: “What Your Honour had before you, until the incident, is a reformed thief and burglar, who previously had a long career as a thief and burglar to feed his addiction, but in 2010 turned away from that and it’s sad to see him back before a crown court judge today.”

Mr Warne, who said the defendant presented as a “rather sad individual”, told the court Devlin had stated he really couldn’t believe he was that stupid to do what he did.

Devlin had made strenuous efforts to keep away from his criminal peers, had moved away to Rawtenstall and only returned to Burnley to assist his mother after his father died. The barrister said: “But, even then he kept away from those who were bad influences.”

Mr Warne said Devlin had been working as a volunteer groundsman at an allotment and got involved with the Revolution team at Burnley Police Station, which involved offenders speaking to police cadets on their passing out and explaining what their lifestyle entailed.

The barrister continued: “That good behaviour continued until earlier this year, when he was forced to leave his mother’s address and was staying at various addresses, including Mr Starkie’s address.

“It appears that caused him to allow himself to take heroin again. He had no income to feed that habit.”