A DRIVER was spared an immediate prison sentence for an “appalling piece of driving” that saw him reach speeds of 90mph, overtake vehicles, and drive on the wrong side of the road through a busy town centre – in a campervan.

Ben Stiles, of Laburnum Drive, New Inn, eventually crashed the Renault Master Campervan he was driving into a wall, having led pursuing police officers on a chase for several miles and try to evade capture as he snaked through Rhayader town centre in Powys on Saturday, June 11, this year.

At his sentencing hearing at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court today - August 5 - it was revealed that Stiles, 27, was also under the influence of cannabis at the time – for which he is to be sentenced next week.

Stiles was jailed for 10 months by Judge Richard Twomlow – a huge sigh of relief was audible when the defendant heard that the jail term is to be suspended for a year.

Stiles admitted a charge of dangerous driving at a previous hearing, where he also pleaded guilty to driving with no insurance and no licence. A fourth offence of failing to stop was withdrawn.

Prosecutor Alycia Carpanini said the incident began while a police officer, PC Wright, was responding to an unrelated matter near Rhayader at about 8.30pm.

“His lights and sirens were illuminated in an attempt to pass the vehicle in front, a Renault campervan, which belonged to Ben Stiles," she said.

“The call was resolved and the lights were turned off, but PC Wright noticed that the Renault was still travelling in a 50mph zone at 70mph ahead of him. It took a bend at speed, with a limited view of oncoming traffic and did this again on the next set of bends.

“The vehicle drove over solid white lines, turned another bend, continuing at speed. There would have been a collision had a vehicle been coming in the other direction. PC Wright reported the vehicle as he believed it had reacted to a police presence.

“The Renault straddled solid white lines, travelling at 90mph. It cut across lines again, approaching Rhayader, travelling at 70mph in a 40mph zone without braking. PC Wright illuminated his lights and activated the siren, then saw the Renault cut across another lane and across a junction, overtaking a car right by the leisure centre by a pedestrian crossing.

“It passed a number of pedestrians walking on the footpath, turned onto East Street, drove on the wrong side of the road, overtaking a queue of traffic, down Church Street, passing other pedestrians.

“The Renault does not slow down, crosses another junction at 46mph, then collides with a stone wall and veers across the road and collides with another wall on Tanners Row.”

Footage played to the court showed the defendant exit the vehicle and flee on foot while throwing away his clothes, with PC Wright pursuing.

Laurence Jones, acting for Stiles, said his client, who runs his own online clothing business, had described his behaviour as an “act of absolute madness”.

“He said he was selfish and stupid and could have killed someone,” said Mr Jones.

“He accepts it crosses the custodial threshold. He said to me if it has to be immediate then so be it.

“This was a significant piece of reckless driving. It was not aimed at deliberately causing damage to property or causing injury. This was a young man who panicked and wrongly drove in a manner so as not to be stopped by police. "

Mr Jones said Stiles did not have the easiest of starts in life, including being homeless at 16 and developing a Class A drug habit, but had gone on to live in America and Spain, and to start his own clothing company, returning to Wales when his grandparents became ill.

Judge Twomlow told Stiles: “You are very fortunate there was no accident.

“It was an extremely stupid decision. Only a prison sentence can be justified, but I have decided that it just about can be suspended. Don’t underestimate how fortunate you are because this was a very bad piece of driving.”

The 10-month jail term was handed down for dangerous driving, with no separate penalties for the other offences.

Stiles will be disqualified from driving for two years and must pass an extended test before he can get behind the wheel again. He must also complete 10 rehabilitation activity requirement days, as well as 19 thinking skills sessions and 150 hours of unpaid work. He will have to pay £340 costs and a £156 surcharge.