Man jailed for causing £55,000 damage to police cars on Prince of Wales Bridge
A man has been jailed for causing more than £55,000 of damage to police cars during a high-speed car chase across the Prince of Wales Bridge.
Matthew Woody-Jones, a renderer from Bedminster, Bristol, hit the four Gwent Police cars while trying to flee across the Severn Crossing stretch of the M4 in the early hours of April 6.
The 34-year-old father had 33 convictions for 68 offences, including three previous convictions for driving while disqualified, and was banned from driving at the time of the incident, Cardiff Crown Court heard on Monday.
“Shocking” police dashcam footage played in court showed the defendant’s silver Ford Transit van weaving across lanes during a 12-mile pursuit which began just after 1.24am as he headed towards Pontypool.
Acting on information they had received about the van, officers turned on their blue lights and tried to stop Woody-Jones a number of times but he refused to pull over and began driving dangerously towards Newport and the Prince of Wales Bridge.
The clips showed the driving conditions to be wet and dark and Woody-Jones was said to be driving between 60-80 miles per hour.
Prosecutor Martha Smith-Higgins said while on the bridge and heading for Bristol, police attempted manoeuvres to box Woody-Jones in but he continued to try to evade capture by stopping abruptly and reversing.
She said: “The van then slammed its brakes on during the course of the stretch of the Prince of Wales Bridge before attempting to drive the wrong way.
“Officers reversed to block the van, but as they did so this defendant drove forward again.
“As he did, he collided with a number of police cars as he made off.”
In total the damage to the vehicles cost the force £56,416.58.
Defending Woody-Jones, Rhodri Chudleigh said his client had a number of financial pressures due to the rent of his family home being increased from £900 to £1,400 and “panicked” when he saw the police cars due to his previous convictions.
Woody-Jones claimed he had been returning from visiting a friend when he saw officers following him and said he wanted to reach England so that if he was remanded into custody he would be closer to home.
He was charged with dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and causing criminal damage to the four vehicles.
He pleaded guilty to the offences at Newport Magistrates’ Court on April 8 and was remanded into custody.
Recorder Andrew Hammond sentenced Woody-Jones to 16 months in prison and banned him from driving for an additional two years and eight months, calling the footage “truly shocking”.
“You placed these police officers in a desperately dangerous situation through the way in which you drove where they had to take controlled but drastic action to bring this pursuit to an end,” he said.
“It’s striking that South Wales is indeed fortunate to have officers of such skill and courage who are willing to put themselves very much in harm’s way to protect the public from people like you.
“You displayed a complete disregard for the safety of those officers and other road users and drove in a way which truly was dangerous.”
He added: “This offence has caused significant damage to four police vehicles totalling in excess of £55,000 worth of damage. And of course, resulting in those four police vehicles needing to be taken off the road while they are repaired and therefore not available for police duties.”
Superintendent Mike Richards, from the roads policing and specialist operations unit, said: “Matthew Woody-Jones drove dangerously on the M4, placing other road users directly at risk through his reckless actions.
“He refused to stop several times for officers when instructed to do so and was eventually brought to a halt on the M4 Prince of Wales Bridge.
“Officers following his van used several tactics designed to keep motorists safe, including keeping his van on the M4 and away from public or residential areas.
“As he was disqualified from driving, he simply should not have been using a vehicle on the motorway that night.
“We’ll not tolerate behaviour that puts lives at risk on our roads and any motorist caught driving dangerously will be prosecuted.”
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