He had earlier pleaded guilty to charges of dangerous driving, having no licence and driving without insurance.

Prosecutor Jason Pegg said that on 11th July the police were on the look-out for a white Transit van when they saw it heading along the A46 towards Evesham at 11.45am.

The officers, who were in an unmarked car, put on their blue lights and siren, and pulled alongside the Transit.

Whittaker, who had two passengers, a man and a woman, gave them the thumbs-up—but then suddenly accelerated away and crossed the central reservation into the face of oncoming traffic.

He then went the wrong way round a roundabout and headed at speed towards oncoming traffic and on to the A44.

With the police in pursuit, he drove along 40mph roads at 70mph, most of the time in the middle of the road or on the off-side, causing oncoming traffic to swerve.

As he headed into Evesham he continued to drive at 70mph along residential roads, still in the middle or on the off-side of the road, and when he had to brake, smoke came from the wheels.

Reaching the junction with Worcester Road he went through traffic lights on red on to the off-side of the road, forcing other drivers to brake to avoid a collision.

Whittaker continued along the A4184 towards the town centre before turning sharply into St Egwin’s Road, a cul-de-sac with the entrance to St Mary’s Catholic Primary School at the end of it.

He stopped and he and his passengers got out, and he made off on foot. His passengers were detained at the scene, but Whittaker was not arrested until 11 days later.

When he was questioned about his driving, he confirmed he had no licence or insurance and said: “I panicked; I was scared. I’ve been to prison three times, and didn’t want to go back.”

And he told officers: “I made a mountain out of a molehill. The driving was crazy, horrific. I could have killed someone. I was taking stupid risks.”

Whittaker, who had previous convictions for offences including taking vehicles and failing to comply with a community order, for which he was jailed in February, added that his female passenger was screaming at him and he was telling her to shut up.

Nick Devine, defending, said: “The three most compelling matters of mitigation are his age, his plea and his complete and utter and unusual level of frankness during his interview.

“He showed a mature level of insight into his behaviour, and it is clear he was demonstrating genuine remorse.”

Mr Devine said that after serving his last sentence, Whittaker was determined to steer clear of alcohol and drug misuse and to repair his relationship with his family.

He went back to live with his parents, found employment and bought the van with a friend, with the aim of using it to do painting and decorating work, but panicked when the police tried to stop him because he had no licence.

Asking the judge to consider a suspended sentence, Mr Devine added: “What happened during that chase has been a salutary lesson for him. He was himself terrified at what was going on.”

But jailing Whittaker, Recorder William Mousley QC told him: “You drove in an absolutely terrible way, as you recognise.

“I am not persuaded the sentence I pass can be suspended. You have recently demonstrated your ambivalence to court orders.

“The time has come for you to start making your own decisions on how you live your life. The probation service has invested quite enough time and energy on you in the past.”