11th May, 2021

Drunk driver led police on chase through Rugby and neighbouring villages

A BANNED driver had to be pulled from a stolen Transit van when he crashed after turning his lights off as he sped along a narrow country lane in a bid to escape from police.

And when he was arrested following the chase through Rugby, Long Lawford and Church Lawford, Michael Wright was found to be almost twice the legal alcohol limit.

Wright, 27, of James Galloway Close, Coventry, was jailed for 18 months after pleading guilty at Warwick Crown Court to dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and excess alcohol.

His not guilty plea to a charge of driving the Transit knowing it had been taken without consent was accepted.

Prosecutor Gary Rutter said that at 2am on December 20 police officers in a marked car learned that an ANPR camera had triggered an alert to a Transit travelling into Rugby on the A426.

They saw the van at the Newbold Road roundabout and began to follow it with their blue lights on.

But Wright failed to stop and headed back along the A426 at 70mph in a 40 zone before turning at the next island and heading back to Newbold Road.

Wright then drove along the 30mph limit Newbold Road at 50mph before taking a left towards the cement works, straddling the central white lines and going onto the offside of the road.

He drove through Long Lawford at 70mph, and continued along the Coventry Road until he reached Church Lawford where he went the wrong way down a one-way street at 50mph.

Wright then turned down a narrow unlit country lane where he turned the Transit’s lights off in a bid to lose the pursuing police car.

But the officers were alerted by his brake lights as he lost control in the dark and crashed, with the Transit ending up on its side.

When they pulled up Wright was standing up in the overturned van, and after he was pulled out and arrested he was given a breath test which showed he was almost twice the legal limit, said Mr Rutter.

Wright told the officers he had been drinking the night before and had then had an argument with his partner, so had driven off in the van because he wanted to be alone.

Wright, who had a number of previous driving convictions, added that he did not know why he had turned the lights off, and had crashed because he could not see.

Andrew Tucker, defending, said: “This fits into a pattern of him reacting in a positive way to situations of emotional stress.”

He said Wright had been brought up in the notorious Wisteria Lodge care home in Coventry ‘which is known to this court, and he had an unhappy time there.’

“He was released from his last sentence in February last year and was fortunate enough to establish a relationship with a young lady who has been supportive and to a large extent kept him on track.

“He kept off drink until the 20th of December when at a birthday celebration he had something to drink and it had more effect on him than in the past, and he had an argument with his girlfriend and decided to drive off,” added Mr Tucker.

Jailing Wright, and banning him from driving for five years and nine months, Judge Anthony Potter told him: “You had remained out of trouble for ten months or so.

“But you added to your appalling record for driving on the 20th of December when, after taking drink and having an argument with your partner, you got into a van.

“You were 12 months into an 18-month ban for driving offences, and you were almost twice the limit when you set off in the van, which was uninsured.

“When the police indicated for you to stop, you did not think better of it and pull over. Instead, you drove off over the course of five or six miles, driving at approaching twice the speed limit.

“It was on any view a prolonged, persistent and deliberate course of dangerous driving which only ended when you crashed your vehicle and the police came to your assistance.”

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