Stevenage driver in 120mph police chase
A TROUBLED businessman from Stevenage led police on a hair-raising 120mph chase down a motorway after going to the Lake District to kill himself, a court heard on Tuesday. A judge at Carlisle Crown Court said Mark Ridley s 30-mile drive down the M6 was a
A TROUBLED businessman from Stevenage led police on a hair-raising 120mph chase down a motorway after going to the Lake District to kill himself, a court heard on Tuesday.
A judge at Carlisle Crown Court said Mark Ridley's 30-mile drive down the M6 was "absolutely remarkable" and the worst case of dangerous driving he had ever experienced.
"It could so easily have ended in disaster and significant loss of human life," he said.
The court heard that Ridley, of Trajan Gate in Stevenage, had been missing for several days when police spotted him driving his Vauxhall Zafira near Penrith in Cumbria.
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By then he had already been to Loch Ness in Scotland and the Lake District, where he had planned to kill himself because he had "a sentimental attachment" to that area.
Prosecuting counsel John Coffell said Ridley had decided against suicide and was driving to his Stevenage home when he spotted the face of a policeman in his rear view mirror.
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That panicked him and he accelerated away, reaching 120mph as he passed Penrith.
With three police cars trying to box him in, Ridley hurtled down the motorway, ignoring all attempts to stop him.
He somehow squeezed between the chasing police cars and turned off the motorway at Junction 37 near Sedbergh, then continued driving at 60mph on "winding country roads", Mr Coffell said.
It was then that the police broke off the pursuit because it would have been too dangerous to continue, he said.
Ridley was eventually stopped at St Neots in Cambridgeshire and taken to hospital.
In mitigation, defence advocate Mike Reay said that at the time Ridley was suffering from "a very black depression" brought on by financial and business failures.
Ridley pleaded guilty to dangerous driving. He was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, ordered to do 200 hours unpaid community work and banned from driving for four years.
Judge Peter Hughes QC told him: "It was truly appalling driving. You risked your own life - but I suspect that was of little importance to you at the time - you risked the lives of the police officers who were trying to stop you and you risked the lives of literally countless innocent members of the public who were travelling quite normally along the M6 that day."
The judge said Ridley would have gone to prison had it not been for the fear that, after making good progress in recent months, his health would suffer a relapse if he was locked up.
He praised the "professionalism, skill and personal courage" of the police involved in the chase.