A VAN driver who hurtled around the roads of Bolton and Farnworth, narrowly missing a cyclist and pedestrians, has been banned for two years— but has avoided a jail sentence.

Robert Marsh sped through red lights and failed to give way at roundabouts, causing other vehicles to brake sharply, in his bid to escape officers during a six-mile pursuit on September 7 last year.

Marsh pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, drink driving and driving without a full licence and insurance at Bolton Crown Court yesterday.

Sentencing him, Recorder Howard Bentham, QC, said: “It was just as dangerous as using a knife or a gun — you could have killed someone.”

Lisi Ke, prosecuting, said Marsh, aged 31, was spotted driving a Ford Transit at speed in Plodder Lane, Farnworth, at 11.30pm by police in an unmarked car.

The officers followed him as he failed to stop at a roundabout, went through red lights at the hospital junction and then, travelling at 50mph, narrowly missed a cyclist and pedestrians on the pavement.

At the junction with Bradford Street, Marsh again went through red lights before turning into Beech Avenue and cutting through to Harrowby Street.

Miss Ke said the police activated their lights and siren, but Marsh did not stop and, during the eightminute chase, he overtook vehicles on the wrong side, sped through more red traffic lights and drove along Manchester Road at 75mph, almost hitting a vehicle leaving a retail park in Manchester Road.

More cars had to brake sharply to avoid Marsh as he headed along Orlando Street, Bolton, along Lever Street, Grecian Crescent and Newport Street before finally giving up in Campbell Street, where he stopped and got out of the van with his hands held high in surrender.

At the police station, he was found to have 152mg of alcohol in 100ml of urine.

The legal limit is 107mg.

The court heard that Marsh, of Philips Avenue, Farnworth, had several driving convictions, including two in 2005 and 2007 for driving whilst banned.

Paul Tonge, defending, said Marsh had spent the day helping friends repair a car and had been drinking beer when one of them received a phone call asking him to return home to Westhoughton.

Mr Tonge said Marsh then “embarked upon a catalogue of poor decisions”, offering to drive his friend even though he knew he only had a provisional driving licence, no insurance and had been drinking.

It was on his way back to Farnworth that he was seen by police.

Recorder Bentham sentenced Marsh to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, banned him from driving for two years and until he takes an extended driving test, and ordered that he undergoes a drink impaired drivers’ course.