An award-winning Bristol policeman "worn down" by racial abuse in the job led colleagues on a high-speed chase in which he smashed into two cars and injured another driver. Cliff Young had worked for Avon and Somerset Police for two years when he got behind the wheel of his mum's car, drunk, after pressures at work had led him to consider suicide.
In a pursuit which lasted just three minutes Young, 31, of Stonebridge Park, crashed into two other vehicles at high speeds before stopping on the hard shoulder of a motorway after damaging his car. Alcohol bottles, one of which was completely empty, were found in the car following his arrest, while the vehicles he had hit were written off with a driver left injured.
Young, who no longer works for the police force, appeared at Cardiff Crown Court for sentence after the incident occurred nearly two years ago. He previously pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, WalesOnline reports.
READ MORE: Judge tells defendant he sent himself to jail
Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke accounted for the defendant’s previous good character. She also took on board his mental health issues and steps he had taken to turn his life around when considering her sentence.
Young was handed 12 months' prison suspended for 18 months. He was given 200 hours' unpaid work, costs of £420 and was banned from driving for two years pending an extended driving test.
Cat Jones, prosecuting, said at 11.25pm on Saturday, September 26, 2020, an officer from Avon and Somerset Police saw Young driving a red Nissan Micra erratically through an area of Bristol. They attempted to pull the defendant over in a marked police car, with its blue lights activated, but he did not stop and drove off, with the officer calling for assistance as they were not pursuit trained.
Less than quarter of an hour later, at 11:38pm, Young was seen by another officer driving at speed without his lights on down Romney Avenue. He was driving towards the officer, who stopped the police vehicle he was in to avoid a collision, before mounting the pavement and driving around the vehicle to evade police.
A pursuit then ensued, with Young swerving around a marked police van and driving on the wrong side of the road at speed before jumping a red light as he turned onto Muller Road. As he turned, he collided with a stationary red Citroen that had been waiting at the traffic lights on the opposite side of the road.
Ms Jones added that, after hitting the car at speed, the defendant then reversed and continued to drive along the road, heading towards the M32 while swerving and travelling at speeds of 70mph, more than double the speed limit of 30mph. The pursuing officer briefly lost sight of the Micra, but as they approached the M32 roundabout they saw that it had collided with another vehicle, this time a dark coloured SUV. The impact of this second collision had caused the SUV to "spin around 180 degrees" and was now facing in the opposite direction to the traffic.
Young still continued to drive, however, and carried on to the M32 slip road. However, the impact of the second collision had left his car too damaged to drive at speed, with police able to catch up with him.
He came to a stop on the hard shoulder of the motorway. Despite initially resisting arrest and being 'red-dotted' by a police Taser, he was detained and arrested at the roadside.
His car was then searched and a bottle of Cognac that was two-thirds empty, as well as an empty bottle of XF strawberry flavoured alcohol was discovered within the vehicle. As he was arrested, the defendant was reportedly "extremely upset and crying, apologising for his actions and hoping nobody got hurt”.
The defendant had no previous convictions before appearing at Cardiff Crown Court, other than a caution for shoplifting in 2021. He was disqualified from driving in September 2021, nearly a year after the incident, but this disqualification expired in January.
In a victim impact statement read to the court by Ms Jones, the driver of the first car hit by Young, Ahmed Abdi, said he had suffered whiplash and a knee injury as a result of the collision, which saw him prescribed painkillers and left him unable to work for weeks. He added that he “no longer enjoys” driving and finds it difficult to drive at night or above 30mph, having experienced repeated flashbacks of the incident.
As a result of being unable to work, he estimates he lost around £2,000 in wages, while his car was completely written off, forcing him to replace it and spend £260 on public transport in the intervening period. In total, his losses were estimated to be over £6,000.
Thomas Stanway, defending, said that his client had suffered with his mental health and on the night of the incident, believed “the only way out” was to get behind the wheel of his mother's car having been drinking and drive to the M32, where he intended to take his own life.
He said the father-of-two had worked as a police officer with Avon and Somerset Police since 2018 and was “proud and wanted to make a difference” in his job. He had even received a commendation from the force for saving a woman who had tried to take her own life.
However, the job gradually began to “get him down”. He was the only black officer working at his station at the time of the offence and worked in a predominantly white area of Bristol.
The court was told he worked long shifts and received racial abuse “on an almost daily basis.” That led him to feel isolated and “breaking down to his sergeant”.
Mr Stanway added that his client admitted he had been “naïve” to think he could deal with the problems on his own, and that his issues at work had led to the breakdown of his relationship with his partner. The defence counsel remarked that the mental health issues that Young experienced were “all too prevalent in young men,” but added that they were being increasingly addressed through changes in society.
Having "spiralled", he got behind the wheel of the car while drunk and led his colleagues on the force on a high-speed pursuit as he headed towards the M32. Mr Stanway commented that his client “bitterly regretted” his actions, which were “wholly out of character”.
He added: “This incident is now nearly two years old. Mr Young has used this incident as a wake up call to turn his life around. He realised that alcohol was his crutch and is now teetotal. He also began a 10 week course of counselling following the incident and sought help from his GP.
"He left his role in the police relatively swiftly following the incident and now works part-time as a personal trainer. He has also reconciled with his partner and has moved back into the family home with his two daughters."
The Samaritans can be reached round the clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you need a response immediately, it’s best to call them on the phone. You can reach them by calling 116 123, by emailing email@example.com or by visiting www.samaritans.org
Sign up for our new Bristol's Court Insider newsletter for the latest court and crime news - from arrests to trials and sentencings.
Masked knifeman gets 20-year jail term
Jailed in July: The defendants banged up last month
Man in court after Bristol crime spree