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Exeter pair rammed stolen tractor through gates of farm and crash into lorry during drunken joyride

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: April 02, 2014

Exeter Crown Court

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A pair of drunken joyriders rammed a tractor through the gates of a Mid Devon farm and crashed it into a lorry as they weaved up a country lane.

John Soper and the 17-year-old boy had been on an all night drink and drugs binge before they broke into the farmyard at North Tawton, near Copplestone, and took the tractor, which the farmer had bought just hours earlier.

They set off on the road towards Cullompton with one of them driving and the other standing beside him but within minutes they veered across the lane and crashed head on with a delivery truck.

The £1,500 Massey Ferguson was written off and the teenager was thrown off the tractor and suffered serious injuries which led to the Devon Air ambulance being scrambled.

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The truck suffered £15,000 damage and Gregory’s Transport driver Michael Crook was traumatised by the accident, Exeter Crown Court was told.

Soper, aged 22, of Ebrington Road, Exeter, and the 17-year-old both admitted aggravated vehicle taking. The boy also admitted possession of cannabis and handling a packet of wine gums stolen from a parked car on the same night.

Soper was jailed for eight months, suspended for two years while the 17-year-old, who has previous convictions, was sent to a detention and training centre for eight months. Both were banned from driving for 12 months.

Mr Nigel Wraith, prosecuting, said the pair were in the North Tawton area because they had family connections and had been drinking or taking drugs before they raided the farm on the morning of June 13 last year.

They drove the tractor through the gates of the farm, which is at Station Yard, near the Railway Inn, causing £400 damage and set off down the road.

He said it has not been possible to establish which of them was driving and which was standing up on the tractor when it crashed within a short distance at Steeps Hill.

He said:”The tractor drove straight down the lane, as if it was going to pass the lorry in the opposite direction but then suddenly veered towards it and collided with the offside of the cab.

“The 17-year-old was thrown off by the impact and required treatment and the air ambulance was called to the scene. The driver of the truck said both appeared under the influence of something.

“They were later questioned and said they had been drinking and taking drugs. Other members of the public stopped and when the youth came round he was abusive to those trying to help him and was aggressive to medical staff.

“The damage to the lorry came to £14,000 plus VAT. The damage to the farm gates was estimated at £400 and the tractor, which had been bought the day before, cost £1,500 and was written off.”

Mr Brian Fitzherbert, and Mr Joss Ticehurst, defending, said both men had worked hard to address their problems since the accident and would benefit from further support in the community.

The boy already has two children, despite his age.

Judge Erik Salomonsen told them:”You stole the tractor together and were out riding it together. Mr Crook was driving in the early morning when he was confronted with the Massey Ferguson you had taken from the farmyard.

“You had crashed it though the farm gates. Mr Crook was upset, there was damage to his vehicle, the farm gates, and the tractor was written off.

“One of you was driving and the other was standing up and the younger defendant suffered injuries that required treatment for ten days in hospital. You were both under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

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  • smokey1  |  April 02 2014, 5:33PM

    Hardly a deterrent for the two low life idiots.

  • smokey1  |  April 02 2014, 5:30PM

    The punishment is hardly a deterrent for the two low life idiots.