A MOTORING menace racked up his 16th driving while disqualified offence when he stole a tractor from a farm in Shilbottle and crashed it after skidding on ice, causing more than £2,000 of damage.
Just four months later, Ian Thomas Mason, of Blyth, was caught behind the wheel of another vehicle while he was still banned by a plain-clothed police officer in an unmarked police car.
Appearing for sentence at South East Northumberland Magistrates Court, the 26-year-old, from Windmill Grove, Cowpen, was given an 18-week prison sentence, suspended for two years.
He will be electronically tagged for 26 weeks and has been banned from driving for two years.
Mason, who is currently working in Byker, Newcastle, has been ordered to pay more than £2,100 in compensation for the damage he caused after taking and crashing the tractor.
He had pleaded guilty to two counts of driving while disqualified as well as a further two counts of using a motor vehicle without third party insurance.
He also admitted aggravated vehicle taking and vehicle damage under £5,000 and failing to surrender to police/court bail at the appointed time.
The court heard how Mason, who has been banned from driving since the age of 17, except for a short period of time in 2007 when he was allowed to apply for a licence, took the tractor from a farm in Shilbottle on November 27 last year.
He had been visiting his sick grandmother but was unable to get a taxi to where he was staying, so he took the agricultural vehicle.
The court heard Mason knew how to drive tractors, having worked on farms in north Northumberland for a number of years, but struggled to drive it in the wintry conditions.
He had originally driven the vehicle to Amble but nobody was in so he decided to drive to Pegswood where the mother of his child lived.
But when he arrived in Pegswood, he skidded into the walls of two properties in John Street. It was also said that he had damaged a fence at a property in Ena Street, Widdrington, and caused more than £1,600 of damage to the tractor.
On March 23 this year, Mason clocked up his 17th driving while disqualified offence when he was caught driving a Peugeot 406 in Ashington. Mason had been using the car to drive to-and-from work.
John Monkhouse, defending, said that the easiest thing for magistrates to do would be to send Mason to prison for the longest time they could but said that they would not achieve anything by doing so.
He said that a more suitable punishment would be to give Mason – who has already spent time in prison – a curfew as well as a suspended prison sentence, which would mean that Mason could continue working and compensate those effected by his actions.
Mr Monkhouse said: “Can you imagine the effect of that (a curfew) on a 26-year-old, together with the sword of Damocles hanging over his head, i.e. the suspended prison sentence.
“It is a tough order and a powerful sentence but the incentives are there for him to continue with his current job and get over this and eventually get his licence, or blow it. He is at the age where he wants to change, he needs to change.”
Mr Monkhouse also appealed to magistrates to give Mason, who is also in a stable relationship with a girl in Blyth, the chance to get his driving licence back as soon as possible to allow him to get back on the road legally and asked magistrates to give his client a 12-month disqualification.
The chairman of the bench told Mason that the magistrates decided not to send him to custody immediately because he was in full-time employment and was in a stable relationship. They said they were giving him the chance to turn his life around but imposed a two-year ban. He also has to pay £170 court costs.
No separate penalty was given for having no insurance.