A CROOK who stole a pizza delivery car while the driver desperately tried to cling onto the vehicle has avoided more time behind bars.

Serial criminal Gareth Bowen decided to take the Toyota after spotting it was unattended in Stourbridge Road, Brierley Hill, while driver Maneesh Chacko made a delivery.

But Mr Chacko then tried to hang onto the £3,000 car to try and prevent it being stolen before he was thrown to the

ground as Bowen sped away from the scene.

Judge Simon Ward told 31-year-old Bowen - he had over 50 previous offences on his criminal record - he had appeared before courts in the past "regularly and frequently."

He added: "You saw this car and you decided to take it. The driver then tried to stop you as you drove off at speed

knowing he was hanging onto his car."

The judge went on: "Instead of stopping you carried on driving knowing it was inevitable the man would end up with some sort of injury."

The crime, said Judge Ward, would remain a "major event" in the memory of the delivery driver who had to spend time off work as a result of the injuries he sustained.

But he ruled he was able to avoid sending Bowen straight back into custody because of the time he had spent in prison while being held of remand since his arrest.

Bowen, he concluded, appeared to be putting his life in order and he was showing a more responsible and thoughtful

attitude but he warned him further offending would definitely result in his imprisonment.

Bowen, of Enville Road, Stourbridge, admitted stealing the car and driving dangerously, he was given a 15 month jail term suspended for 18 months.

He was further made the subject of a drug rehabilitation order, disqualified from driving for two years and told he

must obey a four week curfew order.

He told Bowen, who had already served the equivalent of an 18 month prison sentence while being held on remand, "Since you were 16 you have been in trouble for a variety of different offences."

Kevin Saunders, for Bowen, told Wolverhampton Crown Court that his client finally realised the impact his offending had on his victims.