AN EDEN Valley farmer who drove at 142mph as he sped away from a police car at night on the A66 near Penrith has narrowly avoided jail.

The pursuing police officer finally caught up with 25-year-old Lee Robert Maughan when he lost control of his Mercedes Benz car in Temple Sowerby, having driven into the village at a speed of at least 100mph, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

He later blamed his terrible driving on being 'scared'. The defendant, of Great Asby, Appleby, admitted dangerous driving.

Maughan was first seen by the police at the wheel of his Mercedes Benz at 2am on September 19 last year, as he drove from Carleton Avenue in Penrith on to the Kemplay Bank roundabout and then on to the eastbound A66.

Prosecutor Brendan Burke said the police officer noticed the defendant’s car because it as being driven “erratically” from the Carleton Avenue area on to the Kemplay Bank roundabout and then on to the A66 eastbound.

The defendant immediately put his foot down, initially reaching 120mph - but his speed continued to increase, and he soon reached 138mph on a non-dual carriageway part of the road where the speed limit is 60mph, the court heard.

Evan after the pursuing officers activated their blue lights and siren, the court heard, the defendant continued speeding away.

Police dashcam footage showed the Mercedes speeding away at more than 140mph. Its peak speed was 142mph.

Maughan then turned off the A66 towards Temple Sowerby, driving at more than 100mph on a road that presented multiple potential hazards and he repeatedly crossed the road’s double solid white lines.

The defendant then lost control of his car. After he was caught, a blood test showed that the defendant was over the limit for alcohol, but he was never charged with drink driving, the court heard.

Anthony Parkinson, defending, accepted that the offence crossed the custody threshold but pointed out that Maughan had no previous convictions and had been assessed by the Probation Service of posing a low risk of reoffending.

“He’s a hard-working young man” said the barrister. The defendant worked – at times seven days per week – on his family farm. At an earlier  hearing, Maughan said he had been afraid when he saw the police car and this triggered his behaviour.

Judge Nicholas Barker said he believed the defendant was over the limit when he was spotted by the police and he had feared the catastrophic consequences of losing his licence, living and working as he did in a rural area.

“The right thing to have done was to pull over and face the consequences for your decision to drive after taking drink,” said the judge. “That’s what you ought to have done.

“Instead, you thought you would try to outrun the police car. This is an appalling example of dangerous driving. The speeds you travelled at on the roads you travelled on were utterly terrible and dangerous.”

It was clear, said the judge, that Maughan did not have the least concern for the safety of other road users. His only concern was to avoid getting into trouble.

“It was selfish, self-centred, and very dangerous,” continued the judge.

He highlighted in particular that Maughan drove into Temple Sowerby, a residential village with a 30mph limit, at just over 100mph.

Judge Barker said the dashcam footage of the defendant’s car “careering” through Temple Sowerby and then losing control was terrifying and it was remarkable that nobody – including the defendant - was killed or injured.

He urged Maughan to think of the impact this would have had on his loved ones. That he was not killed was down to luck, not the defendant’s driving.

Judge Barker imposed 12 months jail but suspended the sentence for two years. Maughan must complete 180 hours of unpaid work in the community and observe a three month 9pm to 5am curfew as well as a £2,500 fine.

He was banned from driving for 21 months and will have to pass an extended retest before he can drive independently again. As the case concluded, the judge referred to his decision not to jail the defendant, saying: "This has been a narrow decision by me."