A dangerous driver who tore around Darlington in a silver Mercedes after taking it without the owner’s consent has walked free from court.

Ashley Wardell’s rampage only came to an end when he crashed the car into a tree before legging it and leaving a passenger trapped inside.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the 29-year-old snatched the keys for the car when he visited a victim’s home – a woman he knew through her brother in law.

Jenny Haigh, prosecuting, said Wardell sped off in the car when police tried to stop him in the early hours of the morning on September 27, 2020.

She said the defendant reached speeds in excess of 90mph as he drove dangerously around the North Road and Denes area of town and past the Morrisons supermarket.

The court heard how Wardell raced around several streets before mounting the kerb and driving off-road as he desperately attempted to flee the police.

Miss Haigh added: “The car stayed on the path for about a mile before he crashed it into a tree. All of the airbags had deployed ad he left the scene.

“There was a lady trapped in the passenger seat and she had to be cut out by the emergency services.”

Wardell, of Pine Tree Grove, Middleton St George, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and aggravated vehicle taking.

Nicci Horton, mitigating, urged the judge to take into consideration the length of time the case had taken to come to court before sentencing her client.

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Recorder Anthony Kelbrick sentenced Wardell to 15 months in prison, suspended for 12 months.

He said: “You had the good sense to plea guilty, it seems that, in my opinion, that the forensic evidence would have been against you.”

Wardell was also banned from driving for two years and ordered to take an extended driving test to regain his licence.