Dangerous driver's 18 hours of freedom

TEENAGE criminal Lee Nicholls is today back behind bars after enjoying just 18 hours of freedom.

TEENAGE criminal Lee Nicholls is today back behind bars after enjoying just 18 hours of freedom.

That was the number of hours between him being released from prison and getting arrested after a high-speed police chase through one of the largest estates in Ipswich.

He had celebrated his freedom by going out drinking but then took a Ford Fiesta without its owner's consent early on Wednesday and drove dangerously around the Gainsborough and Priory Heath estates.

The 19-year-old troublemaker is now once again locked up after his licence was revoked and he is awaiting sentencing for a string of serious driving offences.

Prosecutor Gareth Davies said that at times Nicholls drove the ageing Ford Fiesta at speeds of up to 70 miles an hour.

He said: "That included driving along Rands Way which has speed bumps. He drove through there without slowing down at all."

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Nicholls, of Drake Road in Ipswich, was freed from custody on licence at 8.30am on Tuesday. He returned home and kept an appointment with probation officers before going out to celebrate with friends.

Mr Davies said police were alerted to a car being driven erratically in the Gainsborough area shortly before 2.30am on Wednesday.

They saw the Fiesta and followed it for a short distance before realising it was speeding and being driven erratically. When they turned on their flashing blue lights the car sped away.

It was driven down a number of roads in the area, including Kingsway, Nacton Road, Clapgate Lane and through Nacton until eventually it reached the old A45 Felixstowe Road.

Mr Davies said shortly after this it was in collision with a police vehicle carrying two dogs, forcing that off the road and making it an insurance write-off.

The Fiesta ended up in a ditch and Nicholls and a 15-year-old youth tried to run away. Both were caught by the police and the youth has admitted a charge of riding in a car he knew was taken without the owner's consent.

Police smelt alcohol on Nicholls' breath and a test back at the police station showed he had 61 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35 microgrammes.

Nicholls' solicitor Ian Duckworth said: “Basically he went out celebrating. At the end of the evening he ended up in this car - he still says he did not take it but he knew it was not his."

Nicholls, who was due to be released on Christmas Eve, had been serving an 18-month sentence imposed last year for taking a vehicle without the owner's consent and driving while disqualified.

Nicholls had been banned from driving for three years last year and would not be eligible to apply for a driving licence until 2008.

The magistrates took only a few seconds to decide that their sentencing powers - the maximum sentence they can impose is six months - was insufficient and sent him to the Crown Court for sentencing, keeping him in custody until then.

The charge of failing to stop for a police officer can only be dealt with by magistrates and for that offence Nicholls was sentenced to one day in custody.

Charges:

Lee Nicholls pleaded guilty to all these charges: Taking a vehicle without the owner's consent, dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, driving with excess alcohol in his breath, failing to stop when required to do so by the police and driving without insurance.

POLICE today hailed the conviction of prolific car crook Lee Nicholls as good news for the police and the public.

The 19-year-old, who had been released from prison less than 24 hours before his arrest, has wreaked havoc on east Ipswich.

Today it emerged that the teenager had been released on licence after being sentenced to 18 months for another offence of aggravated vehicle taking in July 2005.

In that incident Nicholls had rammed two police cars, causing £3,159 damage.

In his latest joyride he stole a car from Ringham Road in Ipswich and then failed to stop for police in Cotman Road.

A chase followed which resulted in his car colliding with a police dog unit driven by Pc Neil Smith.

The force's armed response vehicle is also thought to have been involved in the pursuit.

Following the crash Nicholls and his 15-year-old passenger attempted to flee the scene but were arrested by police.

Pc Smith was taken to Ipswich Hospital as a precaution but was released later that morning.

Today, east Ipswich Inspector Mark Lewis said the force was delighted that Nichols had been caught so soon after his release from prison.

He said: "In the east of Ipswich we have to deal with a number of people who are persistent offenders, Lee Nichols being one of them.

"For a number of years we have had burn outs and theft of motor vehicles and Lee Nichols is one of those responsible.

"Darrell Lambert (of Hawke Road, Ipswich) is another person in a similar situation. He came out of prison and was back inside again three days later after driving whilst disqualified.

"They put a challenge up really and then being caught so quickly puts a message out to their entourage to do something other than commit car crime. "

He said the conviction of Nicholls would be a relief to the people of east Ipswich and to police.

Insp Lewis added: "It is very good news that he has been caught and there was some excellent policing by the individuals in using their driving skills to pursue him and catch him.

"It is also good news for the community who now aren't going to have their cars stolen by him and burnt out in the next few days and weeks.

"This also reduces the danger to the public because of the way he drives on the road. He is disqualified and he is totally unconcerned about other road users."

Nicholls was given a four month custodial sentence in November 2004 for stealing cars and driving while disqualified.

He was released in January 2005 but stole another car on April 30, reversing into two police cars in a pursuit.

He was released on licence earlier this year but was caught breaking into a Ford Orion near Wherstead Road on April 15 and was sent back to prison again.

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