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Man 'drove like a maniac' after stealing van

Aldershot man given chance to turn his life around after a van was stolen before a police chase ensued

Rode was sentenced at Guildford Crown Court

A man from Aldershot who drove ‘like a maniac’ during a police chase after stealing a landscape gardener’s van has been spared an immediate jail term.

Christopher Rode, of Grosvenor Road, has had his sentence deferred until May to give him time to turn his life around, after pleading guilty to theft and dangerous driving last month.

Prosecutor Dianne Chan told Guildford Crown Court on Friday December 20 how on Saturday August 10 Rode, 27, and 22-year-old Emma Morris snatched the keys of Nicholas Edgeller’s van while he was finishing work on a garden in Frensham.

“The van was there one minute; the next it was gone,” said Ms Chan.

The alarm was raised and police spotted the van being driven along the M3 about 15 minutes later. Rode left the motorway and several police cars gave chase, flashing their lights and sounding their sirens.

Even as the pursuit was under way, Morris was texting people, attempting to sell the van and its contents.

The chase lasted about 15 minutes, during which time Rode drove around roundabouts the wrong way, clipped kerbs and nearly hit a motorcyclist.

He was also speeding at more than 60mph through a residential area where there were pedestrians.

Ms Chan said police cars rammed the stolen van to stop him driving off from a close in Aldershot. Rode fled the scene on foot while Morris was arrested.

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

He originally denied stealing the van but changed his plea to guilty on Wednesday November 20. He had previously pleaded guilty to driving without insurance and driving without a licence.

Morris, who lived with Rode in supported accommodation in Grosvenor Road, was sent to prison for six months on Friday September 27 after pleading guilty to the theft of a motor vehicle.

Shahid Begum, defending Rode, said the theft had been ‘opportunistic’ and that he may have been influenced by Morris, whom he felt responsible for. She told the court her client was making ‘great progress’ in overcoming an addiction to cocaine and was ‘turning his life around’.

She said that if Rode were to be imprisoned, he would lose his accommodation, where it is intended he will be trained to mentor other offenders.

Passing sentence, Judge Christopher Critchlow said: “You were driving like a maniac and you were lucky it didn’t cause death.

“I would normally have sent you to prison for 12 months but that may be detrimental to the public as you would lose your house and the chance of successfully completing these courses.”

The judge told Rode he must keep out of trouble until May 30, that he would be disqualified from driving for three years and would have to take an extended driving test before he could get a licence.



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