A SOLDIER who sparked a police chase when he took his wife's car while over the drink-drive limit has been spared prison because he would have been a "great loss" to his unit. 

Sapper Louis Jackson, 20, of Wavell Road, Tidworth had been drinking when he took his wife’s Vauxhall Corsa without her permission on October 8 this year.

He was seen by officers just before 4am, who tried to get him to stop as he narrowly missed traffic islands along Ludgershall Road, but the chase ended when he mounted a verge and was arrested. 

On Thursday, 23 November, Salisbury Magistrates Court heard Jackson told officers he planned to crash the car into an oak tree to end his life.

Prosecuting, Michelle Hewitt said: “Police saw the car being driven in a manner far below the standard of a competent and proven driver.” 

Jackson, who serves with the Royal Engineers in Tidworth, said he thought the police were trying to get past him and that he hit nearly hit the traffic islands because he was looking at his petrol gauge. 

Police breathalysed him and he blew a reading of 42 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath – the legal limit is 35. 

Ms Hewitt added: “He did accept he put the public in danger, he feels like a horrible person as he didn’t want to harm anyone."

Defending, John Mannion said Jackson had a troubled recent history which led to developing mental health issues, not helped by excess alcohol consumption. 

Mr Mannion said: “Clearly this is someone who still needs ongoing support and assistance but he is engaging with those who are wishing to help him.

“This may well be a graphic step along the way to maturing [for him].”

Supporting Jackson, Lieutenant Michael Davies said Jackson had to take a period of leave since his mental health problems developed but, since returning to work, he has made an impact straight away. 

Lt Davies said: “He is not, unlike some, a lazy individual, he is not work shy. He has never given the troop any cause to doubt him and he would be a great loss to the troop."

Jackson admitted to aggravated vehicle taking, drink driving, and driving without a licence and insurance at an earlier hearing. 

Magistrate Nigel Livesey banned Jackson from driving for 12 months.

He also imposed a 12-month community order with 15 rehabilitation days and ordered him to pay £800 in fines.