AN innocent woman was dragged through the courts when her former partner hatched a plan to blame her for driving his car when it was stopped by police.

Paul McArdle told his new girlfriend Dawn Watson to give the false name if she was caught behind the wheel of his Vauxhall Omega because she was not insured.

Police stopped the vehicle last October because it had a faulty light, and Watson, 41, told them she was McArdle's former partner, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Months later, the unsuspecting victim was ordered to surrender her licence for failing to turn up at court to answer a summons for driving with a defective part.

When she made inquiries, it emerged that painter and decorator McArdle, 40, and Watson – now his wife – were behind the attempt to deceive the police.

Peter Wishlade, mitigating, said the Stockton couple “buried their heads in the sand” after the incident and hoped it would go away without them being caught.

He said McArdle became ill on a night out with a high blood pressure condition, and asked Watson, who works in a pub kitchen, to pick him up in his car.

“It was at that moment the plot was hatched,” Mr Wishlade told the court yesterday. “He accepts full responsibility for involving her in this state of affairs.”

The couple, of Hatchlands Park, Ingleby Barwick, pleaded guilty to doing an act tending or intended to pervert the course of justice.

McArdle also admitted permitting a vehicle to be used without insurance, and was given a six-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.

Judge Peter Armstrong also ordered him to carry out 100 hours of unpaid community work, and banned him from driving for six months.

Watson also admitted driving without insurance and was given a suspended four-month prison term with 12 months of supervision and six penalty points.