17th Nov, 2018

Burglar rammed police car with girl, aged 4, in front seat - but avoids dangerous driving charge

Editorial Correspondent 3rd Sep, 2018 Updated: 3rd Sep, 2018

A BURGLAR used his four-year-old daughter as a prop when he scoped a large detached house – and she was later in the front seat of his ‘get-away car’ when he rammed into a police car.

But, astonishingly, a decision was taken not to prosecute Christopher French for dangerous driving, a judge at Warwick Crown Court was told.

French had his young girl accompany him when he went to the front of the house to see if anyone was at home, before his two accomplices tried to break in.

It was as he tried to escape from police that he rammed the officers’ vehicle despite the girl being next to him _ without a child seat.

French (33) of Trentham Road, Coventry, was jailed for three years and nine months after pleading guilty to attempted burglary on the day of his trial.

Prosecutor Richard McConaghy said that in February a car pulled up late at night outside a five-bedroom detached house in Yewdale Crescent, Potters Green, Coventry.

French got out and, holding his four-year-old daughter in his arms, went up to the door and rang the bell, getting the little girl to do so as well before going back to the car.

Mr McConaghy said that in his pre-sentence report French, who had originally pleaded not guilty, continued to deny knowing a burglary was to take place, claiming he had just been getting a lift and had been asked to go and ring the doorbell.

But a CCTV camera showed him getting into the driver’s seat when he returned to the car, a Nissan Qashqai.

He then drove round to the back of the house where two accomplices got out and climbed over the wall into the back garden where they tried unsuccessfully to break in.

They returned to the car and drove away, only to return a few minutes later with crowbars which they then used in a further attempt to force entry.

But a neighbour had raised the alarm, and as a police car arrived, the two men in the garden made off on foot, while French reversed away from the police at speed.

With the police in pursuit, he then drove off at speeds of up to 50mph in residential streets before mistakenly turning into a cul-de-sac. So he turned around and rammed the police car.

The officers jumped out of their vehicle and used their batons to smash the rear window, not realising there was a child in the car.

As soon as they saw her, they stopped, and French took the opportunity to speed away again before abandoning the car and making off over garden fences.

Mr McConaghy said French was linked to the burglary ‘by some very careful analysis of the CCTV footage,’ and at his home officers found the distinctive slippers his daughter had been wearing that night.

Elizabeth Power, defending, suggested that, despite his record of previous convictions, which included robbery, French could be given a suspended sentence.

She said there were ‘positive aspects’ in a pre-sentence report, and that French, described as a devoted family man, had obtained employment since his release from his last sentence.

But jailing French, Judge Peter Cooke told him: “You are a risk to the public, targeting people’s property and homes. Rehabilitation hasn’t stopped you, even though you have a trade.

“All those pleas about your family life count for nothing if you take your four-year-old daughter on burgling sprees with you.

“..You then exposed her to both danger and trauma in the way you reacted on the arrival of the police.”

And the judge added: “Why the CPS have decided not to charge this as a case of dangerous driving, when you rammed a police car with your daughter in the car, frankly defies belief.”

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