A DANGEROUS driver who stole a delivery van full of wine was chased by an off-duty police officer, throwing the keys into a garden when cornered.

Ben Wilde drove at speed on the wrong side of the road, attempted risky overtaking manoeuvres, refused to give way at junctions and nearly lost control of the stolen van as he was pursued by the officer and his civilian driver.

The 21-year-old of Humber Road, Ronkswood, Worcester, admitted dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, driving without insurance and taking a vehicle without the owner's consent before he was jailed at Worcester Crown Court on Monday.

Wilde stole the Ford Transit van from outside the Colwall Park Hotel in Malvern at around midday on September 13 this year as it had been making a wine delivery. Paul Whitfield, prosecuting, said there was £3,500 of stock inside the van and added: "The papers are silent on what might or might not have happened to the contents of the van."

The same van was spotted that same evening at around 10pm in Pound Bank Road in Malvern by an off-duty police officer.

He asked his friend, a civilian, to turn the car around and follow Wilde. The officer described the van as being driven at 'excess speed' along Guarlford Road.

However, because he was in a civilian car, no speed was recorded. Wilde crossed onto the wrong side of the road as he rounded bends, continuing towards Upton, overtaking other vehicles and braking erratically.

"He described Mr Wilde slamming his brakes and taking a short right-hand turn, almost losing control of the transit" said Mr Whitfield.

Other police officers were alerted. Wilde was arrested next day in Suffield Close, Bransford, near Worcester.

Mr Whitfield said: "He saw police officers approach and threw the keys away into a nearby garden."

Wilde has 21 previous convictions for 27 offences and was subject to two community orders at the time of the incident.

He has convictions for the theft of pedal cycles and possession of drugs. In February this year he was banned from driving as a 'totter' because he had 12 points or more on his licence.

One of the community orders was imposed for battery and criminal damage on August 12 this year.

He damaged the vinyl roof of his ex-partner's Mini and punched a man, delivering four 'uppercuts'. The court heard how he also slashed the roof of her Mini convertible, leaving a 10 inch scratch on June 24 this year, sent her a text message offering to pay for it and the very next day smashed the windscreen and passenger window.

The judge jailed Wilde for 30 weeks and banned him from driving for 12 months, extending this ban by 15 weeks so it will begin when he is released at the halfway point of his 30 week sentence.

Wilde is also disqualified from driving until he passes an extended driving retest.

No separate penalty was imposed for driving without insurance.