Reckless driver who abandoned car on level crossing after fleeing police told he could have caused major accident

10:31 22 November 2012

The Audi after it crashed through the crossing barriers at Watlington.

The Audi after it crashed through the crossing barriers at Watlington.

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A WISBECH man put rail passengers at risk when he abandoned a moving car on a level crossing after refusing to stop for police, a court has heard.

Ricky McGrath, 22, leapt from the Audi car he was driving and let it roll through the crossing barriers at Watlington, between King’s Lynn and Downham Market.

First Capital Connect, which runs trains on the busy Fen Line between King’s Lynn and London, said: “Luckily no-one was hurt but this man’s reckless action could have caused a major accident, injuring or claiming the lives of scores of people.”

No train collided with the Audi, which was abandoned on the crossing at 3.47pm on Sunday, September 30. But two services were delayed for 10 and 13 minutes respectively.

Earlier, the judge who sentenced McGrath at Norwich Crown Court yesterday said he “shuddered to think” what might have happened.

Jailing him for a total of 22 months and imposing a three-year driving ban, Judge Stephen Holt told him: “You were not to know whether a train was coming or not. Had a train ploughed into the car, one shudders to think what would have happened.”

He told McGrath, he had an “appalling record” for someone who was still just 22.

McGrath of Wistaria Road, Wisbech, admitted dangerous driving and endangering rail passengers on September 30 this year.

He also admitted escaping from King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court, on October 1, and aggravated vehicle taking in July, this year, when the court heard he had driven at speeds of 107mph on stretches of the A47 in Cambridgeshire.

Nick Methold prosecuting, said that McGrath had borrowed a black Audi from a friend and when police saw him overtaking at speed in a 30mph zone, they had followed him, but he had then tried to get away by leaping from the moving vehicle as he drove up to the level crossing.

“The barriers were coming down and the car continued underneath the barriers. He got out of the car while it was still moving and the car went through the barriers without him in it.”

Mr Methold said that then at his court appearance at King’s Lynn Magistrates he had “absented himself” from the dock and was later recaptured by Lincolnshire police seven days after he escaped from the court. He was arrested in a car on the A17 at Sutton Bridge.

Andrew Cogan, for McGrath, said that he was a “realist” and knew he would be going to prison.

“There is no suggestion whatever there was any driving under the influence of any sort of substance, whether it be drugs or drink.”

He said that McGrath also deserved credit for his plea.

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