A BANNED driver who jumped three red lights and drove over a children’s play area during a police pursuit has been jailed for ten months.

James Mitchell was described by a judge as being responsible for an “appalling piece of driving” during the pursuit in Darlington which cris-crossed the Haughton, Albert Hill and Longfield areas of the town.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the 19-year-old was already disqualified from driving under the totting-up procedure when he took the keys to his dad’s Ford Transit van on April 22 this year.

Prosecuting, Harry Hadfield said two officers in a patrol car recognised Mitchell and saw he was not wearing a seat belt.

They illuminated the vehicle’s blue lights and tried to stop Mitchell but he accelerated away and reached 62mph in a 30mph zone on Albert Road.

Mr Hadfield described how the defendant took a number of blind bends on the wrong side of the road during the 15 minute-long pursuit and drove across a grassed area at a playground in Albert Hill.

He also overtook a bus and another vehicle on the wrong side of the road and overtook on a pedestrian crossing clocking up 52mph as he did so.

Mitchell also narrowly avoided collisions with other motorists, causing one vehicle to perform an emergency stop, and went through three red lights.

Mr Hadfield said when Mitchell came to a halt in a traffic jam a police officer managed to get alongside the van and smashed the driver’s window to try and remove the keys.

But the teenager simply reversed away at speed. He later came to another standstill in traffic which was when police managed to detain him.

Mitchell, of Killinghall Street, Darlington, admitted aggravated vehicle taking, driving without a licence and without insurance.

John Turner, mitigating, said he had expressed genuine remorse. Mr Turner said Mitchell had recently split with his partner and feared he might not see his young son.

He said: “He was not thinking clearly and was under a lot of stress.”

The barrister said Mitchell had a good work ethic was doing part-time jobs for cash and working in a friend’s shop in Northallerton.

Recorder Graeme Cook said he would not be performing his public duty to allow Mitchell his liberty.

Jailing him for ten months and disqualifying him from driving for 12 months, he said: “This was an appalling piece of driving.

“It is only by good fortune that nobody was injured.”