Police officers twice had to break off their pursuit of a dangerous driver who was told it was a “miracle” no one was killed by his high speed antics.
First offender Justin Prentice (23) ignored blue lights and signals to stop on three separate occasions as he sped along in his parent’s car, flying through residential areas at well over the speed limit. At some points during the chase he even turned his headlights to try and evade capture.
His potentially lethal joyride eventually came to an end when police deployed a “stinger” device to burst his tyres.
However, he locked the doors and refused to come out of his stricken vehicle and officers had to break a window to gain access and finally coral Prentice, who had just passed his driving test six months earlier. At this point police realised the young driver was high on cannabis.
Appearing at Falkirk Sheriff Court last Thursday, Prentice had pled guilty to dangerous driving in Nicolton Road, Rumford on February 14 and in Dean Road, Bo’ness on March 4. He also admitted to driving while unfit through drink or drugs and possession of class B drug cannabis on March 4.
Susan Campbell, procurator fiscal depute, said: “It was 9.25pm and police were in a marked vehicle travelling along Redding Road when they saw the accused driving the vehicle, exiting Tesco car park, coming off the roundabout and accelerating before having to break, fortunate to avoid a vehicle which was in front of him.
“Police followed the accused and noted he was weaving within his lane. The vehicle in front of the accused was signalling to turn left and the accused overtook the vehicle and continued onto Maddiston Road.
“Officers attempted to stop the accused, activating the blue lights and the siren. However, he sped up and pulled away reaching speeds of 75mph in a 60mph limit. He was driving dangerously, negotiating blind bends at speed without consideration for traffic coming from the other direction.
“He headed for Lathallan roundabout reaching speeds of 85mph and entered the M9 motorway, now reaching speeds in excess of 120mph, weaving between lanes one and two. He left the motorway at junction two and undertook three other vehicles on the hard shoulder, still driving at 120mph.
“Police officers’ pursuit of the accused was stepped down at this point due to his dangerous driving.”
Officers had lost Prentice, but were able to trace the registration of the vehicle he was driving to his parents house.
“His parents were the registered of the vehicle,” said the procurator fiscal depute. “They heard the accused had only passed his test six months previously. His parents phoned him in the presence of officers and he told them it was his intention to avoid and evade the police in this matter.”
Police caught up with Prentice, still driving his parent’s car, a few weeks later in Dean Road, Bo’ness.
“Officers attempted to stop him, but he made off at speed. They followed him until he turned into Bo’mains Road and Jamieson Avenue. Due to the dangerous manner of the accused’s driving – he was driving at 90mph in a 30mph residential area and making no effort to stop at give way lines – the chase had to be stopped.
“At around 2.40am the accused was spotted travelling along Dean Road towards Edinburgh. He then took off at speed and the police control room authorised a pursuit. At Harbour Road the accused negotiated a bend at speed, driving in the opposite carriageway.
“He turned off his lights for a period of time upon exiting a roundabout and when he entered a national speed limit area he turned them back on. On the A803 his tyres were deflated by a stinger police had placed across the road.
“He continued to drive along the A803 for a short time and was eventually stopped by police. He locked the doors and attempted to drive away when police approached the vehicle on foot.
“Entry was forced to the vehicle via the passenger window and keys were removed from the ignition.”
When he was arrested, officers noticed a strong smell of cannabis coming from Prentice, who was slurring his words. He told officers he had been smoking cannabis earlier in the evening.
His vehicle was searched and 10.5 grams of cannabis – worth around £115 – was recovered.
The court heard Prentice, now living in Balquhatston Crescent, Slamannan, had struggled with drug addiction after he left school, but had not taken drugs of any kind for five years until family pressures caused him to “take refuge” in cannabis.
It was stated the first offender had “really started his offending with a bang”.
Sheriff Simon Collins said: “It’s a miracle no one was killed or seriously injured. It appears you have taken steps to recognise some of the difficulties that have put you where you are today.
“However, the circumstances of this case are extremely serious.”
Prentice was sentenced to 12 months in prison and banned from driving for 42 months.