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Banned driver Samuel Hardstaff, from Chatham, pleads guilty to dangerous driving

A woman blacked out and collapsed into bushes from the shock of seeing a transit van hurtling down a footpath at her as the driver escaped from police, a court heard.

Officers called off the pursuit because it was too dangerous when banned driver Sam Hardstaff went “off road” over a mud bank and onto the footpath.

The 25-year-old tarmacer had been spotted in the Ford Transit with a passenger on April 7 by an officer who knew he was disqualified.

Samuel Hardstaff. Pic: Kent Police
Samuel Hardstaff. Pic: Kent Police

He alerted other officers in a patrol car who saw the van in Delce Road and followed. Hardstaff sped off down residential streets, overtaking on blind bends before driving onto the mud bank.

It was when he went onto the footpath towards a children’s playground near Walderslade Road that officers backed off.

Prosecutor Ed Fowler said the woman blacked out as she saw the van coming towards her.

“She doesn’t know how it missed her,” he told Maidstone Crown Court. “She had to be helped out of the bushes.”

The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court
The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court

The van stopped soon afterwards and the two men were seen on CCTV cameras running away. He was arrested 11 days later.

Hardstaff, of St Leonards Avenue, Chatham, admitted dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and having no insurance. He was in breach of a four-month suspended sentence imposed for driving while banned.

He had previous convictions for dangerous driving, burglary, theft, attempted robbery, driving while disqualified and threatening behaviour.

He was jailed for just under two years and banned for two years and eight months.

"Try and do something with your life instead of going backwards and forwards to prison all the time messing around with vehicles" - Judge Heather Baucher

Judge Heather Baucher told Hardstaff, who appeared by video link with Elmley Prison: “You smashed the vehicle into a mud bank and drove down a footpath which led to a children’s playground.

“The police stopped the chase because they were concerned somebody was going to get killed.

“A person walking along was so concerned she would be hit she blacked out and fell into the bushes. Your record is appalling - 23 convictions for 43 offences.”

The judge said of Hardstaff driving while banned: “If you had killed somebody the taxpayer would be picking up the consequences from the Motor Insurance Bureau because you couldn’t be bothered to wait until you were able to drive again and apply for insurance which would, no doubt, be astronomic.

The outside of Maidstone Crown Court
The outside of Maidstone Crown Court

“The long and short of it is you knew full well you should not have been driving at all. These are serious matters.”

Judge Baucher added: “When you eventually get out of prison you must comply with the disqualification this time. Is that clear?

“Try and do something with your life instead of going backwards and forwards to prison all the time messing around with vehicles."

Investigating officer PC Matthew Crow said: "Driving is a privilege that should be taken seriously but Samuel Hardstaff has demonstrated he is not responsible enough to be behind the wheel.

"He placed the lives of other motorists and pedestrians in danger when he sped away from police in a desperate attempt to avoid arrest. Hopefully he is now aware that our eyes and ears are everywhere, and that there is no hiding place from the law."

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