A SERIAL banned driver who fled leaving the JCB he’d stolen going round and round in a field with nobody at the controls has been locked up for two years.
Jobless drug addict John Mealin, aged 23, jumped out of the digger and hid in a ditch after he was spotted at the wheel by police.
Derby Crown Court heard officers clocked Mealin driving along the A618 near Barlborough in the JCB.
The digger had been stolen from a building site in Clowne.
Police turned on their flashing blue lights but Mealin, a banned driver who had already been caught behind the wheel three times previously, left the road and headed for a field.
Richard Kenward, prosecuting, said: “The driver turned off the lights so effectively the police could not see the vehicle.”
Eventually an armed response team spotted the JCB going around and around the field but there was nobody at the controls.
Mr Kenward said a police helicopter crew used a heat-seeking camera to find Mealin.
He was hiding in a hedge, wearing gloves and covered in mud.
The JCB ended up crashing into a ditch.
Mealin, now of Hartlepool, was jailed for two years after he admitted theft, driving while disqualified, and driving without insurance on October 23 last year.
He must serve an extra 12 weeks for breaching a suspended sentence and was banned from driving for three years. Sentencing him, Judge Hilary Watson said Mealin had put police officers at risk.
He said: ”Not only was there a risk of damage to farm buildings but to those who were pursuing you.”
Alex Menary, mitigating, said Mealin owed money for drugs and had been hired by a gang to drive the JCB away from the building site.
“The worth to him was to get a reduction in the drugs debt of £100,” he said.
“He is not the man who was behind this operation.”
Mr Menary added: “He clearly lacks direction.
“He appreciates drugs are his problem and has spent a vast amount of money on them.
“That contributes to his need for offending but he is starting to turn a corner.”