A PANICKING motorist drove straight at a Hampshire police officer in a desperate bid to avoid being breathalysed.

Robert Rand accelerated towards one of two constables trying to pull him over on suspicion of drink-driving in a council car park.

But a judge spared the 44-year-old jail, slapping him with a five-year driving ban and ordering him to seek help for his “complex” mental health problems.

Southampton Crown Court heard how the drama unfolded when Rand, of Forest Court, New Milton, was pursued by two officers in a marked vehicle on the afternoon of March 6.

They followed him into a car park in Spencer Road, where PC Simon Wickson and his colleague PC Hurrell got out of their vehicle and approached Rand, demanding he take a breathalyser test.

Prosecutor Siobhan Lindsay told the court how after opening his door to speak to them, Rand “drove in the direction” of PC Wickson who was standing in front of the |vehicle.

Ms Lindsay said: “The car struck PC Wickson on the knee but fortunately wasn’t going too fast at 10-15mph.”

Police then launched a manhunt for Rand, eventually finding his car abandoned in Old Milton Road, where they found and arrested him close by.

Rand admitted dangerous driving, failing to stop and failing to provide a specimen and was handed a four-month suspended prison sentence.

Defending Rand, Francis McGrath, said his client suffered “complex” mental health problems including anxiety and depression.

He warned a prison sentence could harm his client’s mental health further and would increase the likelihood of him reoffending.

He added: “If he is subject to a supervision requirement then there will be closer management by the probation service.”

Recorder Paul Gorlick accepted that Rand did not intend to “use the car as a weapon” but had deliberately tried to drive off.

Suspending the sentence for 18 months, imposing a supervision order and five-year driving ban, Recorder Gorlick, said: “This was a serious case where you deliberately drove off and did so to avoid being arrested.

“But in your case you are in need of supervision that will be a benefit to you and may assist you in adjusting your medication.”

Rand was also ordered to pay an £80 victim surcharge.