'He'll be laughing all over his face like Bugs Bunny'

A SHEFFIELD drug addict who reversed a stolen car at a police inspector and attacked a PC was spared jail after a judge decided to "take a chance" with him.

Serial offender Brett Wheeler drove at the police inspector when he was challenged for being in the stolen Corsa and then, in a separate incident, rained kicks and punches on a PC who tried to arrest him for burglary.

But he walked free from Sheffield Crown Court after a judge heard he had a "troubled background", which included suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, and had beaten his addiction while on remand to become the "most improved" inmate on his drug treatment course.

Judge Roger Keen QC told the 30-year-old, who admitted aggravated vehicle taking, burglary, and resisting arrest: "The appropriate prison sentence would be four years.

"But I know what has happened to you, an awful lot not of your own fault, and I am going to take a chance with you."

He handed Wheeler, of Skelton Lane, Woodhouse, a two-year supervision order and nine-month drug rehabilitation order.

Wheeler, who has a string of convictions for motoring and dishonesty offences for which he has served a total of almost five years in jail, was also given a three-year driving ban.

The sentence has infuriated police.

Insp Bob Pitt, chairman of South Yorkshire Police Federation, said after the sentencing: "Courts have a duty to protect police officers and this is an unbelievably lenient sentence.

"It tends to make you question the value placed on police in society. The incident involving the inspector could have ended up killing him.

"It really beggars belief that someone can do something like this, assaulting police officers, then all they have to do is be a model prisoner to secure for themselves a slap on the wrist instead of a meaningful custodial sentence.

"He'll be laughing all over his face like Bugs Bunny."

Sheffield Crown Court heard Wheeler drove at Inspector Andy Macfarlane when he approached him after spotting the stolen Vauxhall Corsa in a car park at Crystal Peaks on June 29.

Carl Fitch, prosecuting, said: "He noticed the reversing lights come on and the vehicle started to reverse towards the police car. He saw the driver's window of the Corsa was smashed and there was damage to the ignition area.

"Insp Macfarlane recognised the defendant and asked him to stop. The defendant ignored him and carried on reversing towards the inspector who had to take evasive action."

Wheeler, who was disqualified from driving, the drove through a pedestrian area, sped off along Eckington Way - narrowly missing two cars which had to brake on a roundabout to avoid crashing - then escaped along the A57.

Almost a fortnight later, on July 9, police were called to a house on Boundary Road, Wybourn, where Wheeler was seen carrying gloves, metal cutters and a torch.

The court heard PC John Bradbury grabbed Wheeler as he was trying to climb over a 6ft fence.

Mr Fitch said: "The officer caught hold of one of his legs and told him he was under arrest. The defendant punched the officer on the side of the head and kicked his arm but he was determined not to let him escape.

The court heard Wheeler continued to kick and punch the PC who held on to the defendant until his colleagues arrived to help.

Mr Fitch said: "He suffered pain, scratches and bruises to his head and arms."

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