Great Britain

Feeling Darwen criminal was caught thanks to pet dog

A FAMILY pet and an off-duty police officer proved a dream team when they stopped a fleeing criminal in his tracks.

Luke Croft had crashed a stolen car into another vehicle on Stopes Brow in Lower Darwen during a police chase in March 2019.

Despite being injured in the ‘catastrophic’ smash Croft got out of the vehicle and ran away from the scene, discarding a knuckle duster and small pocketknife in the process.

However the 23-year-old was brought to a standstill after he came into the path of a man out for a walk with his dog.

Prosecuting the case, Suzanne Hargreaves said: “Officers had tried to pull over the Fiat Punto that the defendant was driving, but he failed to stop. They activated their lights and sirens and a pursuit unfolded.

“The officers briefly lost sight of the Punto before rounding a bend and discovering it had been crashed.

“The defendant was seen getting out of the car and ran off. A member of the public, Mr Hicks, was walking his dog nearby when he saw the defendant coming towards him.

“This set his dog off barking, which startled Croft. That allowed an off-duty police officer, Police Sergeant Steve Dundon, to catch up and stop the man.

“As Mr Dundon stopped him, Mr Hicks observed the defendant take a knife and a knuckle duster from his pocket and throw them onto the floor.”

Croft was arrested and later questioned, where he made admissions about the vehicle and his dangerous driving, but denied any knowledge of the weapons.

Burnley Crown Court heard how damage of £10,000 was caused to a Peugeot which had been parked in the street when Croft crashed, having to be written off as a result of the incident.

Defending Croft, of Wood Street, Darwen, Neil Howard said his client had significantly matured since the incident.

He said: “The vehicle was purchased by the defendant for £150. Clearly Mr Croft knew that was too good to be true. He purchased the vehicle knowing he had no licence or insurance.

“On the day in question he had been to the local Tesco store to buy some alcohol for his mother. He had been on the return from that journey when he noticed the unmarked police vehicle.

“He was aware that he was illegally driving and he panicked.

“The incident was rightly described as a catastrophic collision. In retrospect he appreciates the very high risk of loss of life given that accident.

“In terms of the weapons, there is no explanation as to why he was in possession of them.”

Judge David Potter jailed Croft for just short of 13 months for one count of dangerous driving, one count of aggravated vehicle taking, one count of possession of an offensive weapon and one count of possession of a bladed article.

Judge Potter said: “This was a very bad piece of dangerous driving. Such was the manner of it, you collided with a stationary car, which must have been at some speed because of the damage both to the Punto and Peugeot.

“This was in broad daylight and in residential streets. The risk you put yourself, other road users and pedestrians in was significant.

“It is now nearly two years since these offences and it is clear, to some extent, that you have matured.

“The offence of dangerous driving is so serious that only a custodial sentence is appropriate. The offences of possession of an offensive weapon and bladed article carry and minimum mandatory sentence of at least six months by reason of previous convictions for similar offences.

“I must impose that sentence unless I am it is unjust. Unfortunately, I am not.”

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