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Driver of car traced after collision in Durham thanks to police sniffer dog
A TEENAGER who fled the scene of a collision in a car taken following a burglary was traced thanks to the work of a police sniffer dog.
Thomas Andrew Cairns took the keys to the Peugeot 206 in a break-in at the owner’s home in Gilesgate, Durham, in the early hours of April 29.
Durham Crown Court heard he also took alcohol and a mobile phone, before driving off in the car, parked outside the house in Wakenshaw Road.
Kathryn Dunn, prosecuting, said a police patrol car spotted the Peugeot driving erratically as it headed through Durham and indicated for the driver to stop.
But Cairns ignored the request and carried on for a short distance before colliding with a Ford Galaxy car.
He ran off, leaving a passenger in the damaged Peugeot, but a police dog followed his scent after sniffing his cap, left in the car.
Miss Dunn said the trail led to an abandoned shirt found nearby, and this helped yield a forensic match with Cairns, whose DNA was on file after a previous offence for battery.
When arrested Cairns made an initial denial before admitting he had taken the vehicle, but claiming he had little recollection of his actions due to the alcohol he had drunk that night.
But the 19-year-old, of Fir Avenue, Sherburn Road Estate, Durham, admitted charges of aggravated vehicle taking, burglary and driving without insurance at an earlier hearing before magistrates.
The case was committed to the crown court for sentence.
Ros Scott Bell, mitigating, told the court Cairns had little memory of events that night other than the fact he had been drinking heavily and a vague recollection of driving the car.
She said his main problem is binge drinking, particularly on weekends, which he has begun to address since the incident.
Miss Scott Bell handed a testimonial to the court in which Cairns' employer spoke highly about him, describing the events that night as, “out of character”.
Recorder Ian Atherton said the aggravating feature was the fact that Cairns, “drove through Durham roaring drunk”.
The Recorder told him: “You were very drunk when you drove that car and the consequences could have been very serious.”
He added that due to Cairns’ limited previous record, only having one antecedent offence and his early ‘guilty’ pleas, he was just able to avoid passing an immediate custodial sentence.
Recorder Atherton imposed a 14-month sentence in a young offenders’ institution, suspended for 18 months, during which Cairns will be subject of probation supervison.
He also banned him from driving for a year, made him subject of a two-month 7pm - 5.30am electronically-monitored home curfew and ordered him to pay £500 compensation to the Peugeot owner.