AN unlicensed driver who knocked down a police officer in a bid to escape justice has avoided a stay in a young offender’s institute.

Rehman Hussain will instead have to undertake 150 hours of unpaid work for knocking down PC Joe Astin while fleeing from officers who had tried to pull him over on April 4.

The court heard how Hussain, of Halifax Road, Nelson, had tried to escape from officers after they approached him in his car on Southfield Street in Nelson.

But rather than stop and speak to PC Astin and his colleague, Hussain sped away from the area, first squeezing through a gap between a wall and the parked police car, knocking the officer to the ground.

PC Astin suffered rips to his uniform and injuries to his knee but still managed to track Hussain down and arrest him shortly after.

Summarising the case, Judge Simon Medland QC said: “In doing so and notwithstanding the fact an officer was very close to your car – close enough to strike the windscreen with his baton – you drove around him and knocked him over. He was performing a valuable public service at the time and is entitled to the protection of the courts.

“On knocking him over he sustained damage to his uniform, a swollen and grazed knee and you drove off at speed. Subsequently, the officer showing great fortitude managed to track you down and arrested you.

“When you were found you had ten bags of cannabis on you which the prosecution has seen fit to charge as possession. The offence for which you had originally been subject to a conditional discharge was also for possession of cannabis and therefore the circumstances are aggravated by that.”

Defending Hussain, Mark Stewart said his client had made a ‘fool-hardy’ attempt to get away from police, a consequence of which was PC Astin’s ‘not serious’ injury. He said: “Taken together these offences probably just about pass the custody threshold and he could receive an immediate custodial sentence. But he has now been in custody for a period of six weeks, he’s 20 years of age, he only has one previous conviction. A taste of custody, which this has been, is what often works – not the length of that sentence.”

“In my submission he is an ideal candidate for a suspended sentence particularly in the current circumstances because of the COVID-19 he will have spent an enormous amount of time in his cell and not elsewhere and he’ll be in a position in the community where something can be done with him.”

The 20-year-old, who appeared via video link at Preston Crown Court had previously pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and dangerous driving.