Police helicopter called in car thief chase

Preston- Crown Court.
Preston- Crown Court.

A drugged-up car thief almost mowed down children and later put himself in intensive care after the second of two police chases ended in a serious smash.

Paul Hartley (25) had taken his mum Katherine Green’s Volkswagen Golf and she, worried he had taken illicit substances, immediately shopped him to officers.

He maintained the children hadn’t had to jump out of the way, he swerved round them.

Prosecutor David Clarke

Burnley Crown Court had earlier been told he nearly rammed a patrol car and the police helicopter had been scrambled and patrols were called out to try to stop him. Then, weeks later, while on bail and living in his Ford Fiesta, he crashed it down an embankment, after losing control and hitting a lamp post.

The defendant, of Higher Tentre, Burnley, had admitted aggravated vehicle taking, dangerous driving and driving while unfit through drugs and had been committed for sentence by magistrates after pleading guilty to burglary, dangerous driving, having no licence, no insurance and failing to stop.

Judge Jonathan Gibson had deferred sentence to see if the defendant was capable of staying out of trouble for six months. The judge said Hartley’s mother, did “exactly the right thing,” in contacting the police, as she was concerned about his state. Mrs Green had since written to the court and he said her letter was a “significant document” in the context of the case.

He had told the defendant: “She has noticed a significant change in you since you were hospitalised as a result of the second accident. She confirms you have accessed support for yourself and you have been taking your medication and getting counselling. She makes an impassioned plea for me to suspend the inevitable prison sentence.”

Hartley appeared at Preston Crown Court for sentencing and Judge Gibson said he had done well during the deferment. The defendant received 14 months in jail, suspended for 18 months, with 18 months’ supervision. He was banned for two years and was ordered to take an extended driving test.

Prosecutor David Clarke had told the earlier hearing that, at 5-20pm, Hartley asked to borrow his mother’s car keys because, he said, he wanted to get a CD from the Golf. She handed them over. Minutes later, the defendant’s girlfriend told her he intended to steal the vehicle. Mrs Green ran out of the house and saw the car speeding off. “She believed he had been taking illegal drugs, that heightened her concerns and she contacted the police immediately.”

Burnley patrols were notified and Hartley was seen swerving dangerously into traffic to get away. He was followed onto Towneley Street, refused to stop, went onto the pavement and drove along the path, causing children to jump out of the way to avoid being hit. He headed towards Brierfield, overtaking cars and causing oncoming vehicles to take evasive action and then drove towards a police vehicle. The force helicopter was scrambled and multiple patrols joined in the pursuit. Hartley crashed in an alley, made off but was detained.

A doctor who examined him believed he was under the influence of drugs and a blood sample was found to contain cannabinoids and traces of amphetamine and diazepam. Hartley was questioned and said he did not believe he was under the influence of drugs, although he had taken valium the day before.

“He maintained the children hadn’t had to jump out of the way, he swerved round them. He said he had driven directly at the officer and on the wrong side of the road on many occasions. He said he had not noticed the police trying to stop him at first, as he was so intent on getting away.”

Mr Clarke said a more short-lived incident took place in November, while Hartley was on bail. At 5-15am, a Ford Fiesta was seen in Barrowford Road, Gisburn, heading at speed towards the M65. A police officer saw the Fiesta coming towards him and did a three point turn, but the vehicle did not stop and continued at speeds of between 63 and 73 mph, in 30 mph zones. Hartley went though a red light, lost control at the next set of lights, hit the kerb, went onto a grass verge, had a “major impact” with a lamp post and continued down a grass embankment and into a wooded area, where the car stopped. Officers found two men in the vehicle. “The driver was fitting and the passenger was completely unresponsive. Other patrols had to use crowbars to gain access to the vehicle. There was a large quantity of perfume and aftershave in a new condition, in wrappers in the back. ”

Inquiries revealed a burglary had been committed at the Village Pharmacy in Gisburn Road, Barrowford. Perfumes and other items had been strewn all over the floor, many had gone and the £500 CCTV unit had been thrown into the river at the back of the shop.

Mr Clarke said the defendant admitted breaking into the pharmacy through a back window. He told officers the vehicle was not stolen and he had bought it several days before.

Kristian Cavanagh (defending) said Hartley was in hospital for some time after the car crash. “He has woken up. It’s also made him aware of the impact driving so dangerously can have. His friend was seriously injured because of the actions of the defendant.”

Mr Cavanagh said Hartley had been sleeping in his car and was not thinking straight, but was now living with his mother, was on a curfew and taking steps to address his offending.

He welcomes a disqualification, as he realises that would keep him away from vehicles. It has taken the crash and for him to appear at the crown court for him to realise how poor his decisions were.

“He’s now avoiding drugs and he’s living a law-abiding life,” said the solicitor.