Speeding motorist Jamal Rattab was driving so fast on the Sandridge to Wheathampstead road that police officers travelling in the opposite direction could not even make out what car he was driving.

The silver Ford Puma left the B651 road near the Wicked Lady pub, crossed a small ditch and crashed into some trees. Smoke was coming from the car and one of the wheels had been running on its rim after a tyre burst, St Albans Crown Court heard yesterday.

Andrea Scott-Lynch, prosecuting, said after seeing the car go past them, at 8.30pm on April 30, the police turned round and followed. Another motorist on the road out of Sandridge said the Puma was travelling "flat out" and "came from nowhere". Smoke was coming off the tyres as it swerved to avoid a car coming in the opposite direction.

After the crash Rattab, 33, was seen walking along the road in a shaken state. "The police spoke to the defendant who was not co-operative. He was abusive and swore at them." He refused a breath-test.

Rattab was arrested and taken to the police station where he again refused to give a breath test. At one point he pushed back Sergeant Dave Simkin. He admitted he had been drinking and said he only had a provisional licence.

Rattab of The Berries, Sandridge, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, having no insurance, failing to provide a specimen, having no licence and assaulting a police officer.

Defence Stefan Weidmann, defending, said he had driven for only about a mile. He said Rattab was a very excitable man who was "petrified" of going to prison. He said he was going to do a diploma in public services.

Judge Stephen Gullick told him the driving was "incredibly dangerous". He passed a nine month jail sentence suspended for two years, passed a three month curfew between 9pm and 6am with six months' supervision by probation officers. He was banned from driving for 12 months and must take an extended re-test.

The judge warned him: "Don't get behind the wheel of a car."