A DRIVER who led police on a high-speed chase through Southampton in the middle of the night has been spared an immediate jail term.

Antony Stone walked free from Southampton Crown Court despite describing his driving on the night of June 30 last year as "idiotic and reckless".

Stone, who had been drinking, was stopped by police in Havelock Road at 3.30am.

Sally Mertens, prosecuting, said he was travelling at excessive speed without his headlights on. He came to a halt in the middle of the road before speeding off.

During the chase that followed he went the wrong side of a traffic island, ignored a red light and took a corner so fast his car "merged" with the other carriageway, the court heard.

Ms Mertens said: "The pursuit was stood down a short time later.

"But police were told the car had crashed about a mile from where officers had last seen it. The driver had decanted and left the scene."

Stone, who had crashed into a traffic island, was later found walking along Janson Road, Shirley.

Ms Mertens said: "This was a prolonged period of bad driving during which he showed no regard for other road users and also damaged street furniture."

Stone, 28, of Bitterne Road, Southampton, had previously pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and failing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis.

Lucie Taylor, mitigating, said the defendant was full of remorse and had described his driving during the incident as "idiotic, reckless and lacking judgement".

She added: "It's something he has regretted ever since.

"This incident has come as something as a wake-up call. It has caused him to grow up at age of 28. Better late than never."

Judge Peter Henry told him: "Your behaviour was disgraceful. You had obviously been drinking and when you were stopped by police you panicked and drove off."

But the judge added: "It was 3.30am and there doesn't appear to have been any or many other road users around. The danger you might have caused was minimised by the time of day."

For dangerous driving Stone was handed an eight month prison sentence, suspended for two years. He was banned from driving for three years and told to complete 220 hours of unpaid work.

There was no separate penalty for failing to take part in a roadside breath test but his driving licence was endorsed.