A DRIVER claimed he led police on a high speed pursuit through Bolton's narrow residential streets because his passengers told him to do it.

Mesaadi Saaed only has a provisional licence and no insurance for the Vauxhall Astra he was driving at 11.30pm on May 28 last year.

Bolton Crown Court heard how 19-year-old Saaed, who had two passengers on board, suddenly sped off down Halliwell Road after seeing a police car.

Robert Smith, prosecuting, told how the car travelled at up to 60mph during a five-minute pursuit, heading through two sets of red traffic lights.

"At one point, approaching a junction on Chorley New Road, the defendant suddenly veered to the right, narrowly missing a pedestrian in the carriageway who had to run forward to avoid the car," said Mr Smith.

Eventually, on Fern Street, Saaed and his passengers abandoned the car in the middle of the carriageway, but officers managed to catch him a short distance away in woods.

The court heard that Saeed, of Slater Street, Bolton, has no previous convictions although he does have penalty points on his provisional licence for driving without insurance.

He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and without a proper licence or insurance.

Rebecca Caulfield, defending said: "He knows that he should count himself lucky that pedestrians were not hurt."

She added that it had been a difficult time for the takeaway worker as his mother had been diagnosed with cancer and he had bought the car intending to do it up and sell it to make money for his family.

She said: "He knows it was wrong to get into the vehicle that night and drive.

"He says he did attempt to stop but he was encouraged by his friends not to stop. He says he was scared and simply panicked."

Miss Caulfield said Saeed has now stopped taking drugs and has distanced himself from his former friends.

The Honorary Recorder of Bolton, Judge Martin Walsh sentenced Saaed to 12 months in a young offender institution, suspended for two years.

Saaed will also be electronically tagged and subject to a 7pm to 7am curfew for four months and must undertake a thinking skills programme and 10 days of rehabilitation activities.

He was also banned from driving for three years, after which he will have to take an extended test and Judge Walsh ordered the car be forfeited.