A man has been jailed for stealing a family's car, unaware that a baby was sitting in the backseat.
Luke Joyce, 27, jumped into a car that had its engine running on 21 September while the child's mother stood by the passenger door.
He sped off unaware that there was a two-year-old girl sitting in the rear of the vehicle, almost hitting the child's father while he tried to stop the car.
Upon realising there was a child in the vehicle, Joyce abandoned it miles away from where it was taken, leaving the girl crying on the back seat.
Joyce, of Essex Place in Peterlee, appeared at Durham Crown Court on Thursday 17 November where he was sentenced for kidnap, aggravated vehicle taking, driving whilst disqualified and driving without insurance.
He pleaded guilty to all charges, on the basis that he was not aware that the child was in the car at the time of the theft.The court heard how the couple had left the car running outside of a relative's house in Quarrington Hill, County Durham with the keys left in the ignition.
Joyce arrived in a Nissan X-Trail and went straight to the driver's seat of the family's Vauxhall Vectra.
As he sped away, neighbours who heard the commotion got into their own vehicles and began to give chase.
It was later found abandoned outside a farm in the nearby village of Ludworth with the child crying but unharmed in the back seat.
Police arrived shortly afterwards and Joyce was eventually tracked down through DNA samples found on a jacket he had left near the scene, as well as CCTV. In police interviews, he denied the offences.In victim impact statements, the mum said she felt like she had "failed as a mother", with the dad saying he suffers from anxiety and "keeps repeating the incident" to himself.Joyce, who had 33 previous convictions, including for causing serious injury by dangerous driving and driving whilst disqualified, had only been released from prison weeks earlier and was subject to a community order for stalking at the time.
The prosecution said that while was not aware that the child was in the back seat when he entered the vehicle, he did not immediately stop when he realised.The defence argued that this was an "opportunistic" offence committed during a "low point", and that he "did not know what to do" when he realised the baby was in the car.She added: "When he did stop, he made sure he found somewhere safe and left the car in a driveway of a house and threw the keys away so that nobody could drive the car away. It has shocked him, he doesn't know why he committed the offence. He felt at a loss and did something extremely stupid."Joyce was jailed for 30 months and banned from driving for 51 months.
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