WATCH: Men drag race at illegal car meet in Northumberland

Four men are facing lengthy driving bans and a possible prison sentence after they were caught drag racing at an illegal car meet in Northumberland.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 6th October 2018, 12:05 pm
Updated Saturday, 6th October 2018, 12:18 pm
Damian Rodgers
Damian Rodgers

You would be forgiven for thinking it was a scene from the Fast and the Furious films, rather than a cold Saturday night on a Cramlington industrial estate.

But four petrol heads have been caught out by one of their own dashboard cameras after racing in front of dozens of watching spectators.

Damian Rodgers

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In one clip, the footage shows a firecracker being lit to signal the start of the race before two vehicles do a short circuit that includes a public highway.

The camera captures multiple races taking place in front of crowds on the Nelson Industrial Estate in Cramlington in October last year.

But the meet was interrupted by officers from Northumbria Police after a string of noise complaints from nearby residents.

They were able to shut down the impromptu race night but then became involved in a high speed pursuit after one of the drivers attempted to flee.

Garry Kelly

He was later arrested after abandoning his vehicle in Fawdon and attempting to escape on foot.

Damian Rodgers, 39, Garry Kelly, 24, Robert Graham, 36, and David Burdis, 28, had all denied a string of driving offences at Newcastle Crown Court.

But yesterday, they were convicted by a jury following a four-day trial, meaning they're set to be stripped of their driving licences and could even face jail.

Sergeant Matt Sykes, head of Northumbria Police's Operation Dragoon team, has now warned there will be serious consequences for anyone who uses the streets as a race track.

David Burdis

He said: "It is not illegal to have a passion for cars but what these men were doing that night was illegal and put innocent members of the public at risk.

"If they wanted to see how fast they can drive their car then they should go to a track day and not an industrial estate in Cramlington.

"Our public highways are not racing circuits and it this exact type of behaviour that can lead to people being killed on the roads.

"The worst part of my job is having to visit the family of those victims and it drivers like those in court today who are responsible.

"What I find hard to comprehend is that these men have never accepted that their driving that night was dangerous.

"Despite the overwhelming evidence caught on one of their own dashboard cameras they took their case to trial.

"It came as no surprise to me that the jury saw through their lies and they are now set to be taken off our roads for the foreseeable future."

Police were notified of the car meet in Cramlington after receiving calls from frustrated residents annoyed by the noise it was causing on the evening of October 28 last year.

The event had been organised by 39-year-old Damian Rodgers who can be seen in footage shown to court starting races with a firecracker.

After breaking up the meet, an investigation was launched by the Operation Dragoon team to identify those behind the wheel of the racing vehicles.

Dash-cam footage from the vehicle of Garry Kelly allowed them to identify the main people involved in the disorder and bring them in for questioning.

Mobile phone footage was also seized by officers, including a clip taken from inside the fleeing Vauxhall Corsa of David Burdis' that was taken during the police pursuit.

Robert Graham was identified as one of the racing drivers after police reviewed the dash-cam footage taken from Kelly.

Despite the overwhelming video evidence against them, all four men denied that they had committed any criminal offences and took the case to trial.

Rodgers, of the Coach Road Estate, Usworth, Washington, denied three counts of aiding and abetting dangerous driving. He was found guilty by a jury of three counts of aiding and abetting careless driving.

Burdis, of Bensham Crescent, Bensham, denied dangerous driving, driving without insurance, driving without a licence and driving whilst disqualified but was also found guilty.

Kelly, of West Terrace, Choppington, and Graham, of Falmouth Road, Sunderland, both denied dangerous driving. They were found guilty on a lesser charge of careless driving by the jury.

All four men will now be sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court at a future date.