A BANNED driver who drove the back route to go and see his girlfriend to avoid the police from catching him has been given a suspended prison sentence by magistrates.

Marcelo Samuel Goncalves Rodrigues was spotted by an off-duty police officer driving out of Chard and then taking a rural route through Cricket St Thomas.

Another officer lay in wait for him at the exit to the Warner Hotel complex and when he pulled him over he removed the keys from the ignition and arrested him.

When the defendant appeared before the court at Yeovil they were told that he had already been sentenced for a previous offence of disqualified driving which had been imposed for an offence of drug driving.

He was sentenced for that matter in December, after he had been arrested for this latest offence, and was ordered to carry out 120 hours unpaid work.

Rodrigues, 32, of Ashcroft, Chard, pleaded guilty to driving a vehicle on the A30 at Cricket St Thomas while disqualified on December 8 last year. He also admitted an associated offence of driving without insurance when he appeared before Somerset Magistrates.

Emma Lenanton, prosecuting, said that an off-duty police officer saw the defendant driving a blue Honda vehicle out of Chard.

He recognised him and believed he was a banned driver so he called an on-duty officer to the Cricket St Thomas area and they waited at both the entrance and exit of the Warner Hotel complex.

“The officer saw Rodrigues driving out of the exit and blocked him in and then removed the keys from the ignition and arrested him,” she said.

“He was asked to attend a voluntary interview at the police station and said he was fully aware he was disqualified and that he shouldn’t have been driving.”

He was also aware he had no insurance because he had not paid his monthly instalments, although it would not have been valid anyway.

“He said he was driving from Chard to Ilminster to see his girlfriend and was going the back way through the Warner Hotel complex because he had less chance of being stopped by the police,” she added.

Defending solicitor Neil Priest said the reasons for his client committing both the disqualified driving offences was because he worked in a rural area and could not get public transport.

“When he was interviewed he was more than honest and said he was using the route because there was less chance of the police seeing him,” he said.

“This offence was committed on December 8 and he was then sentenced for a similar offence on December 21 and it is a great shame these matters were not dealt with together.

“He has now lost his job through the commission of these offences and his inability to get to work.”

Chair of the magistrates, Peter Searle, told Rodrigues he had now been banned from driving three times and caught driving while disqualified twice, all in the space of eight weeks.

“This shows a complete and utter disregard for court orders and directions,” he said.

“It is a most serious matter in which you have reached the top of the scale in terms of sentencing and have passed the custody threshold, however we are prepared to suspend it.”

They imposed a 12 week prison sentenced, suspended for 12 months and in the meantime ordered the defendant to carry out 80 hours unpaid work.

They also disqualified him from driving for 20 months and ordered him to pay £85 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.