Drink-driving dad-of-seven stole and crashed police car... all while in handcuffs

EDITORS NOTE: NUMBER PLATE PIXELATED BY PA PICTURE DESK Police at the scene in Ladywood, Birmingham where police in an unmarked car were shot at during an operation to crack down on gun crime.

A drink-driving father of seven has been jailed for 16 months after he tried to flee from the scene in a police car while handcuffed - only to crash seconds later.

Sitting at Leicester Magistrates' Court, the city's crown court heard how Dominic O'Neill, 38, of Lincoln Street, Highfields, Leicester, was placed in the back of the police vehicle while officers dealt with passengers in his Vauxhall Zafira, which had been stopped for driving on false number plates.

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He had been given a breath test moments earlier and blew 65 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath – the legal limit is 35 micrograms.

The incident happened on October 21, and according to Rebecca Coleman, prosecuting, O'Neill seized the opportunity to climb in the front seat of the police vehicle, lock the doors and start the engine while officers were distracted.

Ms Coleman said O'Neill drove off despite attempts to stop him, travelling down Abbey Park Road and turning right into Parker Drive on the wrong side of the road.

After driving across a traffic island, he clipped the kerb then collided with a BMW and Volkswagen Passat, which were stationary in queuing traffic.

Both the BMW and Volkswagen drivers suffered whiplash injuries.

O'Neill ran off after the collision, but was arrested a short distance away.

According to The Leicester Mercury, Ms Coleman explained that as O'Neill was being driven back to the police station, he told one of the officers: "I didn't mean to crash the car. It's hard driving in handcuffs. It's the other officer's fault for leaving the keys in the car."

He appeared via video as he was on remand from an earlier hearing where he had pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol and with no insurance, driving while disqualified and aggravated vehicle taking.

O'Neill's defence lawyer, Michelle Harding, said he "panicked" in the rear of the police car and that he had spent the past month in detox and therapy to deal with his alcohol problems.

But the court also heard how O'Neill had previously been convicted six times for driving while banned, five times for driving without insurance, three times for driving with excess alcohol and once for dangerous driving.

Recorder Martin Hurst said: "You were stopped and breathalysed and that is where it should have ended, but you thought you were being clever. I do not accept you panicked.

"You drove off wearing handcuffs, doubtless thinking it was an amusing story to tell your friends.

"It is not an amusing story to tell your seven children.

"What kind of an example are you setting them?"

According to the BBC, O'Neill admitted aggravated vehicle taking/dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, using a vehicle on a road/public place without third party insurance and driving a motor vehicle with alcohol levels above the limit.

As well as the jail term, he also had to pay a victim surcharge of £140 and was disqualified from driving for four years and eight months.

In a statement, Leicestershire Police told the BBC: "Following the incident an internal investigation was carried out into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

"The matter was not referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.... necessary officers have received advice."

Story by Leon Poultney

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