A MOTORIST led police on a pursuit for miles through parts of the New Forest during which he crashed into a house, collided with another car and drove at a group of officers, a court heard.
The incident began when Joseph Andrews (26) found an empty Renault Laguna with the keys in the ignition, climbed in and sped off, Southampton Crown Court was told.
Prosecutor Unyime Davies explained that the manner of his driving on 19th September last year prompted several people to alert police who launched a hunt for him.
The trail of destruction involved him arriving at Dibden Golf Centre at about 2.30pm where golfer Jack Bladon was shocked to see Andrews drive into a house adjacent to the course before making off.
“He saw the car being driven into a house at the location entirely on purpose and into the brickwork of the house, causing damage,” Ms Davies said.
“The male in the car then reversed and drove into the garage next to the house, invariably causing more damage.”
Fifteen minutes later the Renault twice collided with Michael O’Brien’s vehicle at Rushington roundabout in Totton, before Andrews sped off without stopping.
Two police officers in a marked car spotted him in Southampton and gave chase, giving ongoing commentary to other pursuers.
Another marked vehicle stopped nearby with its officers standing close by and, according to one, Andrews “deliberately” drove at them.
The Renault collided with the police car before coming to rest. Andrews fled on foot but was chased by police and caught.
The court heard that months prior to the incident, in January, Andrews also burgled a top-floor flat in Southampton occupied by a woman and her elderly mother.
He took her piggybank, bank cards, £100 cash, a Southampton FC season ticket and jewellery. Most of the items were recovered.
In police interviews in relation to both incidents, Andrews gave no comment. He was identified as the burglar after crime scene officers found his fingerprint on the piggybank.
He initially denied the burglary before changing his plea to guilty. In relation to the driving incident he admitted two charges of aggravated vehicle taking, criminal damage and dangerous driving.
Ms Davies explained Andrews – who gave two home addresses to the court, St Martins Close and Verulam Road, both in Southampton – had 21 convictions for 15 offences.
A “substantial” number of those were driving-related and he had two previous disqualifications from driving – for three years and 15 months.
Crucially, it was his third dwelling house burglary. Under sentencing guidelines committing a third such offence carries a minimum three-year jail term unless that can be proven “unjust”.
Defending Andrews, Lucy Conroy argued it would be unjust to impose such a sentence.
She said the previous two burglaries committed by her client were in 2010 and 2013, a long time ago, and he kept completely out of trouble between 2013 and 2018.
Mrs Conroy also highlighted that her client had numerous mental health problems, including ADHD, “polysubstance issues”, personality disorders, depression and anxiety.
She also said he had been a drug user but had made attempts to get better in spite of setbacks.
The driving offences were random and opportunistic, Mrs Conroy said, and she had “no mitigation” since Andrews could not remember or explain why he did it.
“He cannot account for having no memory of it,” she told the court.
The defendant did “have a real desire” to get on top of his problems since he had recently become a father while in custody. “He is desperately trying to embrace the opportunity he has to kick this,” she said, urging the court to spare him custody to get help.
However, Judge Richard Smith QC said he did not find it unjust to activate the minimum term for the burglary, eventually imposing a 41-month sentence.
As for the 19th September car pursuit, he said it was an “appalling episode of driving”, and disqualified Andrews from the roads for three years and eight months on his release.