A judge branded a thief ‘an idiot’ after he took a JCB digger before leading police on a chase through a village - at just 15mph.
Jamie Banks, aged 28, of Mexborough, took the vehicle from a building site and drove along a dual carriageway and into a village.
He was caught when police were alerted to the digger being driven erratically, and a patrol car followed him for more than mile at 15mph before cornering him in a cul-de-sac.
Banks was handed a 15-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work at Lincoln Crown Court after he admitted aggravated vehicle taking.
Judge Stuart Rafferty told him: “Forgive me for saying so, but you are an idiot.”
Prosecutor Christopher Donnellan, QC, said Banks tried to escape from the police by leaping from the digger as it smashed into a pillar in the village of Coddington, Lincolnshire.
He added: “Officers pursued him as he drove the vehicle at 15mph, swerving from kerb to kerb across a dual carriageway.
“Police were unable to halt the digger and Mr Banks continued on to the A1 before turning off and heading into the village. The pursuit ended when Banks leaped from the vehicle, leaving the engine running, and tried to make a run for it but was arrested nearby.”
Tony Stanford, defending, said Banks agreed to take the digger to pay off a £100 debt and acted out of ‘stupidity and panic’.
“He clearly had no way of escaping when he was driving a vehicle that had a maximum speed of 20mph,” he said.
He said Banks is due to become a father to twins later this year, and urged the judge to spare him immediate jail. Mr Stanford added: “He understands he has to keep himself out of trouble and get a job.”