A teenager drove a stolen Audi at 90mph in a 30mph zone with a schoolboy sitting in the front passenger seat.
Joshua Hamilton, then 18, and a 15-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, shot down city streets at motorway speeds.
Dad-of-one Hamilton was at the wheel of the Audi A5 – taken by the boy in a burglary just an hour beforehand – as it went through a red light.
But the 19-year-old – who has 15 previous convictions for 29 offences – was spared jail after the judge said he had “a difficult start in life” and he wanted to give him a chance to change his ways.
Liverpool Crown Court heard the car and its keys were taken from a home in Gill Street, in Liverpool city centre, on the evening of Saturday, January 18 this year.
Shortly after the grey Audi was reported stolen, Hamilton and the boy were caught on CCTV in the vehicle, at around 9.40pm.
Officers then spotted Hamilton driving the vehicle badly along Prescot Road in Old Swan and gave chase, during a five-minute pursuit.
Mark Phillips, prosecuting, said Hamilton sped through a red light and reached estimated speeds of 90mph on a 30mph stretch of Queens Drive in a bid to escape.
But he eventually stopped and voluntarily surrendered, several miles away in Woolton Road, when he and his passenger were arrested.
Both teens gave no comment interviews, but the boy, from Kensington, admitted burglary and aggravated vehicle taking (being carried) and was handed a youth rehabilitation order in January.
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Hamilton, who admitted aggravated vehicle taking, driving without a licence and driving without insurance, denied any part in the burglary.
He was cleared of that charge midway through a trial, after a judge directed a jury to find him not guilty, due to insufficient evidence.
The court heard his criminal record dates back to when he was 12 and includes possessing drugs, possessing an offensive weapon, threatening and abusive behaviour, shoplifting and theft.
Philip Astbury, defending, said Hamilton had already spent 160 days in custody and 121 days – the equivalent of 61 in jail – on a qualifying home curfew and urged the judge not to jail him.
He said it was his client’s first driving offence and a pre-sentence report commented on his “immaturity” and “negative peer influences”.
Mr Astbury said: “His mum is present who is very supportive of him. His family acknowledge that’s an issue but equally acknowledge there comes a point when one can’t continue to blame his peers.”
Judge David Swinnerton replied: “The other person in the car was much younger than him, so he may be the bad influence.”
Mr Astbury said: “Whichever way the dynamic was in place, he recognises the issue and recognises it’s something that he may need to address.”
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He added: “He has a daughter who he is motivated to see and he’s doing everything he can to see, so there are plenty of positives in his life if he chooses to take advantage of the opportunities being offered to him.”
Judge Swinnerton said Hamilton was acquitted of the burglary but was “very close” to those who committed it and was with them before and afterwards.
He said: “You drove it very dangerously, driving through a red light, at up to 90mph, in areas that have a 30mph limit.
“It is said in the pre-sentence report that you don’t seem to have much insight into the risks that behaviour caused.
“The risks are pretty obvious. It’s dangerous driving because what you’re risking is killing other people and yourself in fact.”
The judge said he could “easily impose a prison sentence” and send Hamilton back to jail for “a little longer”, but he would receive credit for his early guilty plea, and had already spent more than five months in custody.
He said Hamilton had a “difficult start in life” and a report revealed these problems, along with the fact he had ADHD and learning difficulties.
Judge Swinnerton said: “You missed a significant amount of school and you haven’t as yet ever had any work experience or employment.
“That combination of factors is a troubling one because I agree with the assessment that that means you’re a high risk of re-offending.
“But you’re only 19 and I’m not quite ready to write you off and just keep sending you back to prison.”
The judge said he would give Hamilton a “chance” to work with the Probation Service and other agencies to try and get him into work and “steer the rest of your life in a more positive direction”.
He said: “You’re at real risk of being one of these people who end up spending their lives in and out of prison if you don’t take responsibility for yourself and take responsibility for changing.”
The judge handed him an 18-month community order with a 60-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and 100 hours of unpaid work.
He banned Hamilton from the road for 12 months and said he must take an extended test before he can drive again.