A DRUNK passenger caused a car crash when he snatched a driver’s car keys from the ignition as they travelled at 50mph.
A judge told South Shields man Scott Atkinson he could have caused tragedy or disaster with the “amazingly stupid” act, which had chilling echoes of the death of Pc Joe Carroll, who was killed when a prisoner pulled on the handbrake of a police vehicle.
Newcastle Crown Court heard Atkinson, of Prensgarth Way, South Shields, had shared a litre bottle of vodka with a friend, before another friend gave them a lift into Newcastle last October.
As they travelled along the Felling bypass in Gateshead, Atkinson, 20, started opening the Mini’s passenger door then grabbed the keys and pulled them out of the ignition.
Paul Rowland, prosecuting, told the court: “The action caused the steering column to lock.
“The brakes became ineffective and the driver was unable to prevent the vehicle from crashing into the central reservation barrier.”
The court heard no one was injured in the smash and only minor damage was caused to the vehicle, which Atkinson has since paid to have repaired.
Judge Brian Forster, QC, said: “There could have been a serious accident, if not a disaster, as a result of this action.
“There was a terrible situation where a prisoner applied the handbrake on the A690 and a police officer was tragically killed.”
Atkinson admitted interfering with a motor vehicle.
The judge told him: “Your actions could have caused a disaster, people could have been killed or seriously injured. It was an amazingly stupid thing.”
Giving evidence to the court, Atkinson said he had decided to try to “keep up” with friends during a rare night out.
Atkinson, who is an MoT testing apprentice with a pregnant girlfriend and good work record, said he has not drank alcohol since the incident in October and just wants to work towards his ambition of one day owning his own garage.
He said friends have told him he had wanted to get out of the Mini that night to get into the car behind, which his girlfriend was travelling in.
David Combe, defending, said: “He’s thoroughly ashamed and embarrassed to have put the safety of other people at risk in the way he did”
Atkinson was sentenced to a community order for 12 months, with 150 hours’ unpaid work, a four-month night-time curfew and £120 costs.
Pc Joe Carroll died when a prisoner reached over and pulled on the handbrake of his police vehicle in 2006.