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Wednesday, 03 September 2014

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'Stinking of drink' driver led injured policeman on 100mph motorway chase

A policeman has been praised for his “extreme bravery” after chasing a drunk driver at speeds of 100mph down a motorway – despite having been crushed against his car.

PC Phil Bradbury photo
PC Phil Bradbury

Judge Paul Batty QC said it was “difficult to imagine a worse case of dangerous driving” after Daniel Heath, 23, raced away from officers on the M6.

Carlisle Crown Court heard that during the chase PC Phil Bradbury used the door of his police van as a shield but Heath still drove into him, squashing him between the door and vehicle.

The officer was battered and bruised after the terrifying incident, suffering injuries to his arms, hands, shins and back.

These forced him to take a week off work after the incident more than two months ago, and he was only declared fully fit a week ago.

At about 4.50am on March 31 officers in an unmarked police car spotted a Mercedes van swerving from lane to lane with its indicators on.

They followed Heath from junction 37, near Killington Lake, towards Tebay services, where he pulled over.

The officers approached him but he made a dash north up the M6 to Penrith, before turning off. He was forced to come to a standstill by other vehicles at the traffic lights.

At this point the officer stopped next to Heath’s vehicle, shouted at him to turn off his engine, and made his way to the driver’s side door of the van.

Speaking to the News & Star, PC Bradbury said: “He turned hard left and smashed me backwards towards the car.

“I thought I had broken my right arm, and it was pretty useless.

“We then pursued him south and I kept him on the motorway by forcing him sideways because my car was damaged already.”

Despite the pain caused by his injuries PC Bradbury drove south for about 25 miles to junction 38, where the runaway driver’s tyres were burst with a stinger.

PC Bradbury insisted he wasn’t particularly worried about his own safety.

“He was constantly trying to get off the motorway and I was more concerned for what damage he could do to other people,” he said. “I knew that what we had set up was going to stop it one way or another.

“I have had maybe three or four incidents like this in 16 years on the force.

“This was probably the worst – for somebody to recognise that it’s an officer and to try to run you over.”

The court heard that before driving over the stinger device, Heath had covered about 40 miles.

After his punctured vehicle ground to a halt he took a swing at PC Bradbury.

Tests showed thatHeath was nearly twice the legal drink-drive limit.

Judge Batty said: “Other vehicles had to swerve and you yourself were seen to be driving in an extremely erratic and dangerous fashion.

“I’m prepared to accept that you were not deliberately trying to mow down the officer but that was his perception from the position he was in, faced with a drunk-driver who was not stopping.

“You were stinking of drink and as the officers pulled you out you lashed out and struck PC Bradbury, knocking his glasses from his face, and finally you were restrained.

“He narrowly avoided serious injury.”

The judge recommended that PC Bradbury be given a formal commendation.

Judge Batty said: “Not only was he the victim and received some injuries, he nevertheless carried on with his duties and in pursuit of the defendant.”

Heath, of Partington, Manchester, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, assault with intent to resist arrest, driving with excess alcohol in his system, and resisting a constable in the execution of his duty.

He was given a 27-month prison sentence and disqualified from driving for three years.

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