A DRIVER smashed his BMW through a wall into a pub beer garden before lying to police by telling them that the vehicle had been stolen.

Witnesses saw Ashley Smedburg and a woman escaping from the crashed vehicle after the 31-year-old ploughed the vehicle through a wall and into the beer garden of the Elm Tree pub in Ringwood.

When police rang Smedburg to tell him that his vehicle had been involved in a crash, he denied any knowledge of the incident and said he partying more than 20 miles away in Southampton.

The father-of-four later signed a police witness statement in which he claimed his BMW had been stolen.

But detectives later unravelled Smedburg's lie when his DNA was found on a deployed airbag from the vehicle.

The Ringwood resident later pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.

On Tuesday, at Southampton Crown Court, Smedburg was jailed for 15 months.

The court heard how Smedburg crashed the BMW off a T-junction and into the beer garden of the Elm Tree in the early hours of February 22, 2018 – causing £4,000 worth of damage.

Prosecutor Siobhan Linsley told the court that witnesses heard the crash and saw a man and a woman running from the vehicle – with man carrying a beer bottle in his hand.

The court heard how police arrived and found the vehicle was registered to Smedburg.

But when officers phoned Smedburg he refused to give details of his location, other than to say that he was on a night out in Southampton.

Ms Linsley said: "He said the car should be parked in Burley as that's where he left it.

"Police said he (Smedburg) did not sound particularly concerned. He said police would have to speak to him later."

Ms Linsley said Smedburg later reported the vehicle as stolen later that day.

The court heard Smedburg was spoken to by police, in the presence of a solicitor, in March 2018 and warned by both officers and the solicitor about the consequences of filing a false police report.

Then, in May, police asked Smedburg for a DNA sample to rule him out of their investigation – something he refused to do.

Ms Linsley said: "He told police he knew who had taken the vehicle and he had been compensated by that person.

"However, when officers asked him for the name the defendant responded and told the officer to do his job."

Ms Linsley said DNA results then came back showing amylase, a protein found in saliva, found on a deployed airbag matched that of Smedburg – whose DNA was already on the national database due to his 16 previous convictions.

Smedburg was arrested and charged with one count of perverting the course of justice – which he pleaded guilty to.

In mitigation, Jamie Gammon said Smedburg had an extensive history of mental health issues and had not put anyone else in jeopardy by falsely naming them as the driver.

In sentencing, Judge Nicholas Rowland said: "You persisted in saying that your car had been stolen and even went to the trouble of signing a police witness statement, having been warned of the consequences.

"There is an irony in this case that because of police resources cases like your case are taking years to come to crown court and this is not helped by you behaving in this way.

"You have been responsible for that in part because you have diverted valuable resources from other investigations."

Smedburg, of New Street, Ringwood, was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay a victim surcharge.