Colchester: Drunk teenager stole bus at 4am, smashed through locked gate and drove through Greenstead estate before police stopped him with a stinger

A bus in Colchester

A bus in Colchester - Credit: Su Anderson

A drunk teenager who stole a bus has been locked up.

Ashley Barrell admitted taking a single decker bus from the First depot in Magdalen Street, Colchester, at 3.50am on August 24 while under the influence of alcohol.

A security guard alerted police after seeing Barrell, 19, start up the bus and drive off.

As he left the yard he damaged two other buses and used the bus to smash his way through a locked metal gate.

Police followed the bus at about 20mph towards the Greenstead estate where Barrell lives, and saw it mount the kerb as he tried to avoid traffic islands.


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Wayne Ablett, prosecuting, told Colchester Magistrates’ Court yesterday officers used a stinger device to blow the bus’ tyres in Avon Way before it entered a more built up area.

When arrested Barrell completed a breathalyser and recorded 64 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath. The legal limit is 35 microgrammes.

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The total damage caused to the three buses, including scratches and a damaged mirror, was valued at £2,000.

The court heard Barrell, of Charles Pell Road, had three previous convictions for taking a vehicle without consent dating back to 2009 for taking mopeds, including an eight-week spell in a young offenders’ detention earlier this year for breaching a sentencing order.

Ita Farrelly, mitigating, said Barrell was a young man and asked magistrates to consider a suspended sentence.

A probation officer told the court Barrell had had a troubled period in his life and went out drinking instead of addressing the issues, but said he was suitable for a supervision order and a curfew. She added Barrell had begun work two weeks’ ago as a roofer.

Ms Farrelly said: “He was walking home with his chips in his hand and had heard a rumour the buses were not locked.

“He got in and the doors opened, he pressed a button to start the bus, and he drove it.

“He did not really intend to go out of the bus depot, but had no money to get home and thought he could drive to his house get out and leave it there.

“Clearly he did not think of his actions. This action was stupid in its entirety and a great mistake which could cost him his liberty.”

She added Barrell hoped to volunteer to wash buses at the depot as part of his punishment.

Barrell, father to a two-year-old son, only held an expired provisional licence at the time.

Chairman of the bench Miss Dair, sentencing, said: “We have considered everything and have come to the conclusion after careful consideration that the need to punish is greater than the need to rehabilitate. These offences are so serious only custody is justified.

“You broke into a locked premises, you stole a bus, you rammed the garage gates and you were under the influence of alcohol while driving along the public highway.

“You have had a series of previous failures to engage with Probation and respond to other previous orders of the court.”

Barrell was given four months’ detention for a charge of aggravated vehicle taking, and three months to be served concurrently for drink-driving.

The magistrates also banned him from driving for 18 months for each offence, but made no order for costs or compensation.

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