A DRIVER joined his friends in a drinking session in memory of a dead relative before getting behind the wheel of a car and leading police on a high speed chase, a court heard.

Grieving Jason Mannion was jailed for eight months at Bolton Crown Court after a judge criticised him for ignoring lockdown rules last May.

Daniel Calder, prosecuting, said police officers spotted Mannion driving a Ford Focus around Farnworth at around 5am on May 9.

When they tried to pull him over, Mannion drove off reaching speeds of around 60mph on 30mph residential roads.

One officer said Mannion, 25, was driving at speed along North Avenue before crossing a junction without breaking.

He eventually stopped on Mossfield Road and ran off into Ellesmere Park where he was followed by officers and dog handlers and arrested. Later he was found to be over the drink-drive limit.

Mr Calder said Mannion, of St Kilda Avenue, Kearsley, was jailed for 51 months in 2017 for a serious sexual offence.

Nick Ross, defending, said the incident was “born out of tragedy” as that night Mannion and several friends had met up for a drink in memory of a relative.

Mr Ross added: “In ordinary times a drink in memory of someone who had died would not be so strange. He (Mannion) had not planned to drive but was upset at the loss of his cousin when one of his friends offered him the chance to go and sit in his car and gather his thoughts.

“He then decided to go for a drive and when he saw the police he panicked. At that time he was sticking out like a sore thumb.”

Mannion, a father-of-one and part-time roofer, admitted to dangerous driving, driving with excess alcohol, failing to stop and driving without a licence or insurance.

Mr Ross added: “He says he is embarrassed and ashamed and deeply regrets what he did.”

Passing sentence, Judge Timothy Stead, said: “This offence took place at a time of acute danger due to the current pandemic crisis and when everybody else obeying the Government’s requirements.”

Mannion was also banned from driving for 40 months.