Man jailed for gas main crash - Barnet

10/09/2015

A driver being chased by police through Potters Bar and Barnet fractured a gas main when he crashed, causing the area to be evacuated.

Francis Coyle, aged 28,  tried to escape by climbing onto a garage roof. He reached into a bag he was carrying and shouted: "I have a gun. I have a gun."

After his arrest Coyle told the police he had been at a music festival in Hertfordshire and had smoked cannabis and taken ecstasy, but he could not remember anything after that, St Albans Crown Court heard today, Thursday, 10 September 2015. He said: "To be honest I am lucky to be alive."

Peter Shaw, prosecuting for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), played the court a DVD of the chase that was recorded on the police car's camera. It started in Barnet Road, Potters Bar in the early evening of 02 August this year.

Coyle, who was driving a stolen car with false number plates, drove at up to 100 miles per hour in 40 mile per hour zones. He went at 60 miles per hour along Barnet High Street and went through red lights. At one point, in Barnet Road, he overtook another police car that had its blue lights on in response to a 999 call.

He went along Hadley Highstone, Boundary Close, Hadley Green, Sydney Chapman Way, Barnet High Street and Barnet Road, before hitting a van and a car on Stirling Corner roundabout and striking the gas main. The people whose home was damaged were not insured, said Mr Shaw. After the crash Coyle climbed onto nearby garage roofs, telling officers he had a gun and reaching inside his bag. When he was arrested, two lock knives and a baby lotion bottle containing ammonia were found.

Coyle, of Wood Lane, Dagenham, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, aggravated vehicle taking, having a lock knife and possessing a noxious substance. He had 21 convictions for 59 offences, including four of dangerous driving.

Jessica Clarke, defending, said he been released on licence from a sentence for burglary and had been doing well until he went to the music festival. "Something happened at the festival," she said. Ms Clarke said Coyle was truly remorseful and hoped to take up a job with Network Rail.

Judge Andrew Bright QC said he had a "truly appalling driving record." He said: "As dangerous driving goes, this is as serious as I have seen. The driving went on for a very substantial distance. The risk to pedestrians and other road users was great. It is a miracle that no one was hurt."

Coyle was jailed for a total of 2 years and was banned from driving for 3 years. He must take an extended re-test before he regains his licence.

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