Man cleared of assault but jailed for dangerous driving on A12

Matthew Saunders was jailed at Ipswich Crown Court on Wednesday 

Matthew Saunders was jailed at Ipswich Crown Court on Wednesday - Credit: Essex Police

An Essex man has been jailed for 14 months after he crashed his ex-partner's car following a high-speed police chase on the A12. 

Matthew Saunders, 33, who previously admitted charges of dangerous driving and aggravated vehicle taking, was on trial at Ipswich Crown Court for assaulting his ex-partner and damaging her television. 

But on Wednesday, the jury, of six men and six women, found Saunders not guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and criminal damage following the two-day trial. 

The court heard that Saunders reached speeds in excess of 110mph during the chase in the early hours of August 31 last year. 

Hugh Vass, prosecuting, previously told the court the car was written off and that Saunders was "lucky to get out alive" following the crash. 

The events preceding the high-speed chase were the subject of the trial, and Saunders was alleged to have "rained" blows on the woman's face in front of her child and smashed her flat-screen television at her Colchester home. 

Giving evidence from the witness box, Saunders said he had gone to the woman's house around midnight after drinking at a Colchester pub. 

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He said the woman let him in, but once inside the house, an argument had ensued. 

Saunders told the jury that the woman had assaulted him a few days prior to this incident with a table leg. 

The woman did admit to assaulting Saunders but with her hand, the court heard. 

Saunders then said the woman threw the table leg, which he alleged was used in the previous incident, at him and he ducked to get out of the way. 

He said the table leg smashed the television and then rebounded and hit the woman in the face. 

Saunders then took the woman's car keys which she’d left on a table, and the high-speed police chase followed. 

Saunders, of Saxon Gardens, Shoeburyness, has 12 previous convictions for 22 offences, the court heard. 

Sentencing him, Judge David Pugh said Saunders' driving was "highly dangerous" and it was fortunate that no-one was seriously injured or killed. 

Judge Pugh jailed Saunders for 14 months and banned him from driving for 25 months. 

The judge also imposed an indefinite restraining order, banning Saunders from contacting his ex-partner.