A TRIO of would-be fuel thieves tore down the A19 flinging evidence from the unlit car’s windows in a high-speed police chase. The young men were prepared with drums, containers and balaclavas to steal diesel or petrol, Teesside Crown Court heard. Prosecutor Peter Sabiston said: “This was obviously part of an organised and pre-planned expedition that night to steal diesel.” A police patrol spotted the Ford Mondeo speeding south on the A19, near the A172 junction, and followed it as it was driven off-road, across two fields. The car rejoined the A19 northbound and officers had to accelerate up to 110mph to catch up. The Mondeo had its lights turned off throughout the four to five-mile police pursuit. There was other traffic on the road on the evening of October 13 last year, the court was told yesterday.
Drums, containers and a balaclava were thrown from the car as it wove between lanes before driver Shane Pratt, 21, pulled over. His older brother Andrew Pratt, and John Bennett, both 24, were passengers. Another black cap and a screwdriver were found. In Bennett’s home, police found more barrels with a siphon and tubing. Shane Pratt admitted dangerous driving. He and Andrew Pratt, both of Allen Grove, Stokesley, and Bennett, of Tunstall Lane, Nunthorpe, Middlesbrough, all admitted going equipped for theft. Only Bennett had previous convictions, for dangerous driving, poaching and fraudulent evasion of duty for cigarettes, while the other two had cautions. Paul Abrahams, defending Shane Pratt, the dad of a four-month-old child, said he saw sense after the brief pursuit and there was no damage or injury done. Paul Newcombe, representing fork lift driver Andrew Pratt, said it was an inexplicable moment of madness and these were “young men in a panic”. He said Andrew Pratt was in a stable home, did not show anti-social behaviour or addictions to drink or drugs, was assessed as unlikely to re-offend and prison would be a “devastating blow” for him. Liam O’Brien, for Bennett, said he committed the “ridiculous” crime to make some money, was apologetic and now worked for his father on a farm. Judge Gillian Matthews QC gave Shane Pratt a six-month prison sentence, the others three months, each suspended for a year with 150 hours’ unpaid work. Shane Pratt was banned from driving for a year and Bennett will be under supervision.