A drink driver flashed his middle finger at the police officers who were pursuing him through Witney.

Jonathan Simmonds, 56, hit speeds of 50 to 60mph in 30 zones, went through red lights and drove on the wrong side of the road during the chase on the evening of May 14, 2021.

When he was later interviewed by a probation officer for a pre-sentence report, he was said to have claimed the police ‘fabricated facts around the offending’ and felt he hadn’t driven dangerously.

Imposing a two year community order, Recorder Michael Roques said it would have been ‘all too easy’ for Simmonds to have hit another motorist as he jumped red lights – warning him he could have been in the dock for causing death by dangerous driving.

“It’s a matter of blind luck that you are not looking at a 10 year sentence today [for causing a death],” he said.

“That is why dangerous driving is such a serious offence. It’s because of what could have happened.”

Prosecutor Christopher Pembridge told Oxford Crown Court that police were called by a member of the public on May 14 about a suspected drink driver.

The caller felt Simmonds, who had pulled into the Tesco petrol station in Witney, was under the influence of alcohol.

Two police officers found the grey Ford Transit parked up unattended in the Marriotts Walk shopping centre car park.

A CCTV operator kept an eye on the van over the next 90 minutes and called police when Simmonds returned to the vehicle shortly before 8pm.

The officers tried to pull him over as he went to leave the car park. He reversed the van, hit a metal fence then accelerated away.

The ensuing chase lasted seven minutes, with Simmonds’ Transit skipping red lights, crossing onto the wrong-side of the road in order to overtake other vehicles and driving at 50-60mph on roads with 30mph limits.

Witney Gazette:

Marriotts Walk car park, Witney Picture: GOOGLE

The police tried to box the van in. Simmonds narrowly missed hitting one of the officers, who had got out his vehicle.

Mr Pembridge said: “In driving in the way that he has, Simmonds, the Crown would say, has shown an element of disregard for [the public’s] safety.”

He said the defendant had also shown ‘contempt’ for the police officers, as he’d shown them his middle finger during the chase.

Tested at the police station, Simmonds was found to have 80mcgs of alcohol in 100ml of breath – more than twice the legal limit of 35mcgs.

Simmonds, of Marriotts Walk, Witney, pleaded guilty at the magistrates’ court to dangerous driving and drink driving.

Emma Hornby, mitigating, said her client had mental health difficulties and was not taking his medication at the time of the chase. He was now medicated. “With the support of his family and friends he is taking steps to get better,” she said.

Recorder Roques ordered Simmonds pay £150 costs and imposed a 12 week curfew and 16 rehabilitation activity sessions. He was banned from driving for three years and must pass an extended retest if he wants to drive again.

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