A 'DANGEROUS' driver who led police on a car chase inside the grounds of an 870-year old abbey has been spared jail.

Lee Smith sped off into the churchyard of the historic Dorchester Abbey after officers realised his moped had no insurance.

It was the late PC Andrew Harper who first raised the alarm, Oxford Crown Court heard yesterday, after he became 'suspicious' at Smith's moped.

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The 36-year-old of Wey Road, Berinsfield, had already admitted dangerous driving and driving while disqualified.

Outlining the case at yesterday's sentencing hearing prosecutor Cathy Olliver said the police chase began in Dorchester on September 10 last year.

She said PC Harper saw a 'suspicious' moped - a Longjia LJ 125 - and that further checks revealed there was no insurance, tax nor a valid MOT for the vehicle.

Smith then got on the moped and drove off along Henley Road.

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Police tried to stop Smith and activated their blue lights but despite this Smith sped off along the 30 mph road at 42 mph.

As they continued the chase Smith arrived at the abbey and left the road to enter the grounds, which dates back to 1140.

Ms Olliver said there were members of the public in the churchyard at the time of the chase and that Smith was driving at speeds of up to 20 mph there.

Smith then abandoned the moped and police later traced him before his arrest.

It was later revealed that Smith was already disqualified from driving since 2011 with a requirement to take an extended retest.

While the period of disqualification had lapsed he remained banned from the roads as he had never taken that test.

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Prosecutors went on to say that Smith had a 'significant' criminal record made up of 17 convictions for 33 offences.

His original sentencing hearing earlier this year saw presiding Judge Peter Ross defer sentence in order to give Smith a chance to rehabilitate.

In mitigation at yesterday's final sentencing hearing defence barrister Rhianna Fricker said her client 'needs some sort of supervision' to continue with his rehabilitation.

Sentencing, Judge Peter Ross said: "I am glad I deferred sentence, I am glad I gave you the opportunity to begin to turn your life around.

"What you did last year was not only unlawful but it was also grossly irresponsible and you put members of the public at risk.

"If I were to send you to custody today which many would say is entirely merited I would undo all the progress you have made."

Smith was handed a community order for two years.

That order will include a 12-month alcohol treatment requirement, 20 days rehabilitation activity requirement and 80 hours of unpaid work.

The judge added he would not order any further disqualification to allow him to have a 'normal life.'