A MOTORIST has been jailed for risking the lives of three young passengers by leaving his van driverless during a police chase.

Alexander Stewart slipped out of the driver’s seat and into the back of the vehicle so his partner could slide across and take the wheel. He hoped the police would believe she was driving. 

He was desperate to avoid being arrested because he was a disqualified driver. 

He was visiting Dawlish in November 2022 when police tried to stop the van on the road to Exeter.

Stewart pretended to stop but then drove off and police followed the van to Lethbridge Road, Exeter where it eventually pulled over and officers found three children in the back and Stewart’s partner in the driver’s seat. 

She had brought the car to a halt after he completed his move into the back of the van, which left nobody at the controls of Transit for a short time.

Stewart, aged 43, was jailed after he failed to comply with a community order imposed at Exeter Crown Court which required him to do 60 days of rehabilitation activities.

He managed just one day of them before he went back to his home town of Skegness, Lincolnshire, and lost touch with the probation service.

Stewart, of Spirewic Avenue, Skegness, admitted dangerous driving and driving while disqualified and was jailed for seven months by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court. His original one-year driving ban remains in force. 

The Judge told him: ‘You were very fortunate to receive a community order. You were given a chance and flunked that opportunity. There were very young children in the car when you decided to get out of the driver’s seat.’

Miss Emily Pitts, prosecuting, said police followed the van from Dawlish to Exeter at 6.10 pm on November 10, 2022, because they suspected the driver was banned.

Stewart climbed out of the driver’s seat and into the back and was replaced by his partner shortly before the Transit was stopped. 

He admitted the manoeuvre but otherwise made no comment in interview.

He was banned from driving because he had been disqualified for a year in April 2022 for having too many points on his licence.

Police noticed a strong smell of cannabis in the van and seized a small amount from Stewart, who has already been fined by magistrates after admitting personal possession.

Miss Felicity Payne, defending, said Stewart had tried to work with probation but there had been problems with communication after he returned to live with his mother in Skegness.