A PARAMEDIC made a hoax 999 call so he could steal an ambulance to drive home after a drunken night out in Chester, a court heard.

Ian Bennett, 48, had been out for pre-Christmas drinks with colleagues when he decided to save himself the taxi fare back to Runcorn on December 6, 2018.

The father-of-four used a public payphone to call the ambulance service at around 1am claiming someone had collapsed and was having a heart attack at the city’s railway station.

Two crews were scrambled to the scene, during which time Bennett sneaked into the ambulance station on Trafford Street, swiped a set of keys and drove off in one of the vehicles.

Chester and District Standard:

Chester ambulance station on Trafford Street.

He then ripped out equipment including a sat nav and internal CCTV system and dumped the ambulance by the road near his home on The Glen.

Despite his drunken efforts to avoid detection, police were quickly able to identify him from camera footage in Chester city centre and caught up with him the following afternoon.

Bennett, who had worked for North West Ambulance Service for 18 years, accepted taking the vehicle but initially denied theft and burglary.

He said he could not remember anything that happened after he left Rosie’s nightclub until he woke up in his bed the next morning.

However, on the day of his trial he pleaded guilty to all charges and on Monday (January 13) was jailed for 18 months.

Sentencing him, Judge Simon Berkson said: “Your intention was to take the ambulance to get you back home to Runcorn. You were not prepared to join the other revellers in taxi queues in the city centre.

“Not only were your actions reckless in the extreme due to your state it also took an ambulance out of action. This was a determined effort to get home with no regard for the people of Cheshire who rely on the ambulance service.

“Had there been a real emergency at the same time on a busy night out close to Christmas they would not have been able to attend. You put people’s lives at risk.”

John Oates, prosecuting, told the court the stolen ambulance was out of action for two weeks with a repair bill of £3,087.

Chester and District Standard:

Ian Bennett arriving at Chester Crown Court. Image courtesy of Andrew Price at Viewfinder Pictures.

The court heard the defendant was a family man with no previous convictions and an exemplary work record.

Adam Antoszkiw, defending, said Bennett’s wife had been struggling to understand why he had taken such a bizarre course of action.

“He has now lost his 18-year career – a career which he was good at,” he told the court. “Not only was he highly thought of then, he is still highly thought of.”

Now forging a career as a handyman, Bennett was said to be “eager” to reimburse the NHS ambulance trust for the damage he had caused and offered an initial payment of £1,000.

“He had no axe to grind against North West Ambulance Service,” Mr Antoszkiw said. “It is a significant source of regret.”

Judge Berkson stressed he was sentencing on the basis that he accepted the defendant had no memory of the incident.

Bennett will spend half of his 18-month sentence behind bars and half in the community on licence. Upon his release he will be banned from driving for 18 months.

He was also ordered to pay £1,000 in compensation.