Watch moment drunken veteran smashes Ford into Darlington Hippodrome

A drunken armed forces veteran ploughed his car into a theatre.

Richard Kelly got behind the wheel of his Ford Puma on Thursday, March 7 and was seen speeding through Darlington town centre, Teesside Crown Court heard. The 47-year-old was captured on CCTV appearing from Park Place and ramming into pedestrian railings and Darlington Hippodrome.

The footage shows the car speeding from a junction despite oncoming traffic before a railing is flung into the air and the car collides with a wall.

During a sentencing hearing on Wednesday, the court heard the incident happened shortly after 3.30pm when at a junction of traffic he collided "head on" with a pedestrian barrier. Summarising the case, Judge Richard Bennet said: "You went through that barrier and straight into the wall of the Hippodrome on Yarm Road. Had anyone been in your path I have no doubt at all they would have been killed.

"When the police arrived you were found in the car surrounded by a number of empty cans of lager, you were intoxicated and told officers you had had a drink."

The court heard the defendant was taken to hospital and he told officers he had intentionally driven into the wall and accepted his driving had endangered others.

Mitigating on his behalf, Nigel Soppitt said the driver had tried to take his life and stressed he has mental health issues. He said the defendant doesn't leave his Durham Prison cell and feels he has a "bleak future".

He added: "He realises he needs help. At one point in his life he was an extremely worth while citizen - he served in the forces for some time but was discharged because of a fighting incident. Since then his life has gone in a downward spiral."

Sentencing, Judge Bennet said: "It's very fortunate no other traffic or vehicles were struck by you and highly fortunate there were no pedestrians in your path as it would have had catastrophic consequences. The pre-sentence report speaks of your long term mental health issues. The offence you committed I am satisfied was an attempt to end your own life. I am hopeful given what I had read about you that mental health treatment which you so clearly need can begin in the prison environment."

The court heard the incident was committed just two days after Kelly, from Bourne Court, Darlington, was handed a three-month suspended prison sentence for another offence. He admitted the dangerous driving and was jailed for 12 months. He was also banned from driving for 16 months.

Following sentencing, Detective Inspector David Bailey, of Durham Constabulary, said: “Kelly’s behaviour that day was utterly reckless – he drove at excessive speeds and straight across a busy junction without any thought for other road users or pedestrians. It is only by sheer luck that nobody else was injured as a result of his actions.

“If he had chosen to commit this offence only moments before, several people would have been seriously injured or even killed as a result of his actions. I am pleased he has admitted his guilt and can reflect on the consequences of his careless behaviour while he is behind bars.”

Watch the footage below: