Danger driver crashed into minibus after reaching speeds of up to 80mph through residential streets
A danger driver who hit a minibus when he travelled on the wrong side of the road has kept his freedom.
Leighton Hair had reached up to 80mph through residential streets and gone the wrong way around roundabouts before he caused the near head-on collision.
Newcastle Crown Court heard it was only thanks to the actions of the minibus driver, who described Hair's driving as "suicidal, absolutely mental" that amore serious smash was avoided.
Prosecutor Michael Bunch told the court Hair, who had no licence or insurance and had taken seven diazepam tablets, had been trying to get away from the police, who had been attempting to pull him over on March 18.
Mr Bunch said after driving dangerously through residential streets in Sunderland, Hair reached North Hylton Road in the city and said: "He went the wrong way around the round about, travelled through a red light and went onto the wrong side of the carriageway."
Mr Bunch said Hair continued travelling "into the path of" a minibus, travelling on the correct side of the road and added: "That person described seeing a vehicle coming towards him, pursued by flashing blue lights.
"He took evasive action, travelling himself on the wrong side of the road, in order to avoid the defendant.
"However, the defendant clipped his vehicle and that would appear to have caused the defendant's vehicle to leave the road and collided with a lamp post,coming to rest a short distance beyond."
The minibus driver said Hair's driving had been "suicidal, absolutely mental" and added: "He just kept coming on the wrong side of the road, with completedisregard for everyone."
The court heard Hair had a 17-year-old passenger in the car he was driving.
Just 24 hours earlier he drove away without paying for £60 worth of petrol from a garage and the vehicle was "wanted" by the police.
Hair, 23, of Beech Road, South Shields, admitted making off without payment, dangerous driving, two charges of driving while disqualified and two of driving with no insurance.
Mr Recorder Mark Guiliani sentenced him to 16 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with rehabilitation requirements and and said immediate custody would not be more effective in reducing future risk.
The judge told him: "You must have known you were on the wrong side of the road, travelling for a head-on collision with a minibus.
"You took no evasive action to avoid that head-on collision.
"But for the swift action of the other drive, who himself had to drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid the collision, those vehicles would have been in head-on collision, probably at a combined speed in excess of 100mph.
"You were fortunate he took that action because head-on collisions like that usually result in fatalities."
Jennifer Coxon, defending, said Hair is "immature" and was "struggling" at the time but has since moved away from negative influences in his life.
Miss Coxon added: "He said he was just not right in the head at the time and made silly decisions."