Sailor walks free from court after stealing hire car

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A ROYAL Navy sailor stole a hire car then crashed it on a late-night bid to visit his girlfriend.

Able Seaman John Forrester, who is based at HMS Nelson, in Queens Street, Portsmouth, had worked six 12-hour shifts in a row when he had trouble contacting his girlfriend on June 14 this year.

Nick Tucker, defending, told Portsmouth Crown Court, that his client was concerned about his partner because she had recently made a serious attempt to take her own life.

When he could not get hold of her he took keys to a Hertz rental car, which the navy had hired for another member of staff, and his intention was to drive it to Bournemouth and bring it back before anyone had noticed it was missing.

But on his way there he crashed into another vehicle and wrote both the cars off. There were no serious injuries.

Addressing Recorder Robert Linford, Mr Tucker said: ‘I would ask your honour to consider this an exceptional case.

‘It’s not the typical boozed-up joyride. This is far removed from that.

‘He was acting on concern for his partner.

‘She recently made a quite serious attempt on her life.

‘That evening she had been very low in her mood.

‘There came a point when she stopped answering her phone.

‘If he had not crashed the vehicle this offence would not have come to light.’

The court heard Forrester, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to aggravated vehicle taking and driving without insurance, has been in the Royal Navy for six years and has an unblemished record.

Forrester told police he may have fallen asleep at the wheel due to working long hours, but said he was not sure how it happened.

Handing him a 12-month conditional discharge and banning him from driving for a year, Recorder Linford said: ‘You did it because you were anxious, you were going to see your partner.

‘It’s a one-off and I’m going to cut you some slack that you won’t get if you ever stand in that dock again.’

Forrester, of Sunningdale Crescent, Bournemouth, must pay £200 court costs.