A COCAINE-fuelled driver who led police on an 80mph chase through a town centre and nearby estates has been given a second chance.

Lee Withington was 10 times the drug-driving limit when he took his Kia for a spin around Radcliffe n the early hours of January 8, Minshull Street Crown Court was told.

Police were in pursuit as Withington drove through the pedestrian precinct beside Radcliffe Market at one point.

But as the episode, described by a judge as potentially lethal, represented the former Royal Regiment of Scotland soldier's "rock bottom", Withington has been given the opportunity to rehabilitate himself.

Judge Mark Savill was told the 29-year-old had served in tours of Iraq and Syria during his military service.

And defence counsel Isobel Thomas said Withington had lost three close friends on the frontline, including one pal who died in his arms.

She said the defendant had undoubtedly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder which had not been successfully addressed.

Withington, of Kingmoor Avenue, Radcliffe, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, driving while above the legal limit for cocaine and failing to stop after an accident.

He was given an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, with 20 rehabilitation activity days with the probation service.

Withington must also undertake 150 hours of community service and observe a two-month curfew between 7am and 7pm.

The court heard because he had a previous drink-driving conviction, he must be the subject of a three-year driving disqualification.

Passing sentence, Judge Savill told him: "When someone drives like that people get killed, do you understand?"

The judge said he accepted Withington had hit "rock bottom" and was capable of being rehabilitated.

The defendant, who had also broken up with his then-partner, had already been discharged from the army because of his drug use, the court heard.

Earlier prosecutor Simone Flynn said Withington's car was first spotted in Radcliffe during the early hours.

The pursuit by police saw the defendant also crash into a traffic light, drive on the wrong side of the road and reach speeds of up to 80mph, the court heard.

Withington eventually drove up a farm track, on the outskirts of the town centre, and was caught nearby.

Miss Thomas said the defendant's sister believed that while Withington was proud of his army career, he was a noticeably "changed person", since he had been discharged from active service.