A banned driver was involved in a 17-minute high-speed pursuit while at the wheel of a vehicle which came to police attention in the early hours of the morning, a court heard.

Jamie Leafe was said to have "panicked" on seeing police and then drove in a highly dangerous manner, "out of gross stupidity", trying to evade arrest.

The Ford Transit Courier driven by Leafe was "flagged" as a possible stolen and uninsured vehicle when police spotted it, driving through Hett village, south of Durham, at 4.35am on Friday, October 27, last year.

Durham Crown Court heard that the officers in the police vehicle activated its blue lights and siren.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Banned driver Jamie Leafe required hospital treatment after being arrested following a 17-minute

Leafe accelerated, entering the A167 at the Coach and Horses roundabout, at Thinford, before travelling southbound towards Ferryhill.

Annelise Haugstad, prosecuting, said the officers had tried to pull up the Transit on a grassed area just off the A167, but Leafe sped off, reaching 80-miles per hour in a 60-limit zone.

He continued driving at speed approaching Chilton, before turning onto the A689 heading towards the A1(M) junction at Bradbury.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Miss Haugstad said at one stage a lorry in front caused Leafe to brake heavily, but he performed a hasty u-turn manoeuvre to avoid a collision.

Police tried to prevent Leafe from entering the A1(M) by deploying a Stinger tyre-deflating device, but he carried on, travelling southbound to the Aycliffe junction, where he re-entered the A167 and then exited the Transit.

Having confirmed he had been the sole occupant of the vehicle, the officers gave chase on foot and took the defendant to the ground.

As he was being handcuffed he kicked out at the officers several times.

He dropped a phone which he had in his hand, but police recovered the device.

Miss Haugstad said the defendant mentioned to the officers that he had taken cocaine earlier that day and he was a disqualified driver until August 2025.

He was taken to hospital as he had a head injury, but he refused to provide a blood specimen for analysis.

Miss Haugstad said the entire pursuit lasted about 17 minutes, with aggravating features including the speeds he reached and the manner of his driving, including swerving from side to side to try to hinder the pursuing police vehicle.

Leafe, 39, of Gleneagles Road, Darlington, admitted dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and without insurance, plus failing to provide a specimen for analysis.

The court heard his 12 previous convictions for 18 offences included a number of motoring matters, up to seven of them for driving while disqualified, leading to the current three-year ban he is serving.

Sophie Allinson-Howells, in mitigation, told the court: “The only explanation he can provide was that he panicked, but he recognises he should not have been behind the wheel of a vehicle.

“Had he stopped, things would have been bad, but not half as bad.

“He made immediate guilty pleas, but, in terms of defence, little can be said.

“The only reason for it was gross stupidity.

“He has shown a great deficit in thinking skills.”

Miss Allinson-Howells said the defendant retains the backing of his family, with whom he lives and some members attended court in his support.

But she told the hearing the defendant was, “under no illusions as to the likely outcome of today’s case”, and conceded his past record, “does him no favours at all,” despite having never previously been to custody, either upon sentence or on remand.

Miss Allinson-Howells added: “Clearly there’s some entrenched way of thinking about the rules of the road that will require some attention.”

Imposing an 18-month prison sentence, Judge Jo Kidd told Leafe that the lead offence was the dangerous driving, but she said it was aggravated by the fact he was banned at the time, that he was, uninsured, and failed to provide a specimen.

Judge Kidd also banned him from driving, in this case for a total of five years and nine months, and he must sit an extended test after that, should he wish to legally drive in future.