A DANGER driver carried out a reckless move at what one police officer called “ridiculous speed” during a late night chase on country roads in north Cumbria.

Benjamin Stoddart, 23, was behind the wheel of an Audi A3 spotted by a constable in a marked patrol car just before 9pm on Sunday, March 24.

That officer was parked at a red light above junction 44 of the M6.

Stoddart’s Audi appeared from his right from the M6 off-slip, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

“Travelling so fast it was visibly tilting,” prosecutor Andrew Evans explained.

“It ran straight through a red light and took the exit for the A7 to the officer’s right. He is a trained pursuit driver and set off up the A7 after the Audi.

“He describes travelling at 99mph up the 50mph-limited A7 but barely gaining on it, when it took a left up a country road with houses on each side, towards the village of Harker.

“The speed was around 88mph when the Audi reached a bridge over a disused railway which has a blind hump in it. The officer disengaged the pursuit through this obstacle at that speed.

"He informed other patrols in the area that he had lost of sight of the Audi.”

Another PC heard this radio call from his own marked vehicle and began to search the Harker area. At 9.22pm the Audi drove past him at speed, and he alerted colleagues.

One saw it re-emerge from a country road on to the A7 very soon after. “He describes the Audi turning on to the A7 without slowing for the ‘give way’ sign, and accelerating beyond the speed limit before overtaking other cars,” said Mr Evans.

“His passenger describes this manoeuvre as taking place at a ‘ridiculous speed’, leaving the PC amazed that the defendant retained control of the car.”

Stoddart then used another country road to evade one officer, while another was still on the network of smaller roads when he spotted the Audi again, at 10.03pm, as it passed him at speed.

Mr Evans said: “He followed it back once again on to the A7 — effectively it was driving circles around three C roads and an A road — where other vehicles were also in pursuit.

“When it once again turned off towards Harker, and the blind bridge, he took the decision to overtake it and signal it to stop, which it did, coming to a halt on the grass verge."

Stoddart, transporting a front seat passenger, was arrested and during a first court appearance pleaded guilty to two dangerous driving charges arising from the incident.

During a crown court sentencing hearing, defence lawyer Mark Shepherd said Stoddart, of Suttle Lane, Carlisle, had shown remorse, a lack of maturity and had no previous criminal convictions.

Judge Michael Fanning noted Stoddart’s employer was willing to keep him on and concluded the defendant was a man who otherwise conducted himself well.

As a result, the judge suspended an eight-month jail term for 12 months.

There had been no injuries nor damage during the incident, said Judge Fanning.

But he told Stoddart: “If somebody had been coming the other way you would have killed them or injured them, or harmed yourself, or harmed police officers.”

Of Stoddart’s criminal conduct, Judge Fanning observed: “It is recognised that people under the age of 25 are still developing, neurologically; your brain has not fully formed.

"That means you don’t necessarily think through the consequences of what you do. You act instinctively, perhaps recklessly.”

Stoddart must complete rehabilitation work with the probation service, 150 hours’ community service and serve a 12-month driving ban. He must also complete an extended re-test before his licence is returned.