Drug driver jailed for ramming police cars during Barnstaple pursuit

Exeter Crown Court

Exeter Crown Court - Credit: Archant

A drug driver has been jailed after he rammed two police cars at the end of a chase through the centre of Barnstaple.

Matthew Cooke drove on the wrong side of the road and mounted pavements as he tried to evade pursuing police cars at 50mph in a 30mph limit.

He carried on driving with a flat tyre and a door hanging off his Vauxhall Astra after ramming the first police car which tried to box him in.

He then drove at a second police BMW which managed to stop him further down the street, causing a total of £3,800 damage.

Builder Cooke was followed by police after they saw him driving circuits around Barnstaple in the early hours of Sunday, April 10 this year.

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He was angry after having an argument with his ex-partner and a blood test also showed that he had used cocaine, which had broken down in his body to produce the metabolite BZE.

Cooke, aged 30, of Hughes Avenue, Barnstaple, admitted dangerous driving, drug driving, and having no licence or insurance. He was jailed for 43 weeks and banned from driving for 18 months by Recorder Mr Malcolm Gibney at Exeter Crown Court.

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He told him: “This was a bad case of dangerous driving. You were driving in an appalling manner such that the police had to take significant action to prevent you injuring someone or causing damage.”

Samuel Castlehouse, prosecuting, said police noticed Cooke’s Astra driving circuits around Barnstaple at excess speed and he tried to escape when they first tried to stop him in Victoria Road.

He went the wrong way around a keep left sign and ignored a no entry sign. He carried on after the pursuing police car tagged his Astra and caused him to crash into a wall.

He mounted a pavement and clipped the police car to prevent himself being boxed in and drove away without a driver’s door and with one tyre deflated.

Another police car then blocked his path and he crashed into it a failed attempt to escape again. He hit another wall, stopped, and was pulled from the wreckage by police.

He gave a blood test containing 70 microgrammes of BZE, the substance produced by the body processing cocaine. There is a legal limit of 50 despite cocaine being an illegal drug.

Richard Crabb, defending, said Cooke had a troubled childhood in Norfolk and moved to Devon in 2013 to get away from bad influences.

On the night of this incident, he had not taken medication to control his schizophrenia and ADHD and was upset after an argument with his ex partner about contact with their two children.

His life is now more stable with a new partner, who has come to court to support him. He would be able to carry on working as a builder if his sentence was suspended.

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