An Aldershot man, who led police on a desperate chase in a stolen landscape gardener’s van, has been spared immediate jail.

At around midday on August 10 last year Christopher Rode and his then-partner, Emma Morris, of Grosvenor Road, Aldershot, snatched the keys of the Transit Connect from the porch area of a house in Frensham, while its owner, Nicholas Edgeller, was finishing work inside.

The alarm was raised and police spotted the pair driving along the M3 a short time later.

Rode, who was driving, left the motorway with several police cars in pursuit.

Even as the chase was under way, Morris, who was then 22, was sending texts trying to sell the van and its contents. Rode drove around several roundabouts the wrong way, clipping kerbs and at one point nearly hitting a motorcyclist.

He also sped at more than 60mph through a residential area.

After 15 minutes, police cars rammed the stolen vehicle to stop it driving away from a close in Aldershot.

Rode, now of Walliscote Road South in Western Super Mare, fled the scene on foot, while Morris was arrested.

Rode, 27, managed to temporarily escape but was being watched from a police helicopter, whose crew directed officers to arrest him.

He originally denied stealing the van but admitted dangerous driving, however at a hearing at Guildford Crown Court last November 20 he pleaded guilty to theft of a motor vehicle.

In December the court deferred sentencing of the defendant for six months to give him time to overcome his cocaine addiction and to attend courses addressing his behaviour.

At that hearing his defence barrister, Shahid Begum, said the theft had been ‘opportunistic’ and may have been influenced by Morris, whom he had felt responsible for.

Morris, who admitted theft of a vehicle, was sentenced to 26 weeks in prison last September.

Judge Christopher Critchlow deferred sentencing for Rode on the condition he stayed in his sheltered accommodation in Grosvenor Road and that he completed the courses.

However on Friday June 20 Guildford Crown Court heard that Rode had ‘taken matters into his own hands’ and decided to leave the accommodation.

The defendant said it was ‘full of drugs’ and that it ‘kept being raided by police’.

This meant Rode forfeited the opportunity to undertake the courses offered by the housing association, although he said that he had been doing some charity work.

The court also heard that in May Rode was arrested and charged with a robbery in Aldershot, although he denies the offence.

Judge Critchlow handed Rode a 10-month prison sentence suspended for two years. He also imposed a community order with a supervision order comprised of 22 group sessions of a thinking skills programme.

Judge Critchlow said: “If you don’t complete the course you will be bought back to court and will be liable to lose your liberty.”

Rode was disqualified from driving for three years last December.