A MAN has been jailed after he drunkenly rammed a police car with his van and then hid the damaged vehicle in a barn.
Gavin Rookes pretended to stop when he was pulled over for drink driving near Okehampton but then reversed so violently into the patrol car that he wrecked its engine.
The impact also shattered the rear windows of his Astra van but he sped off and dumped it behind heavy machinery in a barn at the farm near Iddesleigh where he worked.
He left the male and female officers in the police car with whiplash injuries, in shock and stranded on the country road because their engine was damaged and would not start.
He had drunk at least five pints at a birthday party at the Duke of York pub in Iddesleigh before driving off in the van, which police saw weaving around the A386 near Folly Gate.
The van was only found after the police put out a public appeal and Rookes’ boss spotted it in one of his farm buildings.
Rookes, aged 40 of Barnstaple, admitted dangerous driving and driving while disqualified and with no insurance.
He was jailed for 16 months and banned from driving for five years after his release by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter Crown Court.
He told him: ‘You knew you were a disqualified driver, you knew you had been drinking, and you decided to get away and avoid the police. You decided to immobilise the police car, there was no other reason for doing what you did. The two officers were shaken and injured.
‘It did not end there. You drove off at high speed and hid the vehicle at the farm where you worked and then lied to police to try to avoid responsibility. You told the police it was their job to prove it and that is exactly what they did. They demolished your defence.’
Gareth Evans, prosecuting, said Rookes has three previous convictions for drink driving and was serving a 38-month ban when he bought the van last year.
He kept it at the Parsonage Farm near Iddesleigh where he worked and lived in an annexe and used it to drive to the birthday party on March 23 last year.
Police saw his van near Folly Gate at around 11.05pm and tried to stop him because he was weaving across the road and going at only 30mph in a 60mph limit zone.
Mr Evans said: ‘The van came to a complete stop and the officers stopped 20 feet behind it. The officers noticed its reversing lights come on and it reversed rapidly and collided with the front to the police vehicle, causing significant damage.
‘The male officer was about to get out and had one foot out of the car, which he was able to pull back in just before the impact.’
Rookes drove off and his van was only found by farmer Graham Ward after a public appeal for information. It had been concealed behind two large pieces of agricultural machinery at the back of the barn.
When Rookes was arrested, he denied being the driver of the van and said he had walked home from the pub. Police had to use evidence of where his mobile phone had been to disprove his story.
Ramsey Quaife, defending, said Rookes panicked because he feared he would be arrested and lose his job. He was desperate to stay out of prison so he could support his partner and two children, aged 14 and 18.