A CAR wrecker drove at a known criminal in a rage after his car was stolen, a court has heard.
James Thomas Atkinson, 28, of Swanston Street, Terang, pleaded guilty in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court to driving in a dangerous manner, careless driving and driving an unregistered vehicle.
He was placed on a corrections order.
Magistrate Cynthia Toose said Atkinson had acted like a lunatic and a vigilante even though police were looking into his car being stolen and parts taken from his wrecker's yard at the time of the offending.
"Why shouldn't I consider imprisonment?", she asked, saying that Atkinson's reaction had been completely unreasonable despite the circumstances.
"It's a near thing. It smacks of vigilantism," adding that Atkinson's actions had almost landed him in prison.
Police said that at 8.45am on November 18 Tim Barden, who has an extensive criminal history, went to a wrecker's yard in Terang's Littles Lane where he had a confrontation with Atkinson, who asked him to leave.
Atkinson then travelled west along Swanson Street at about 90km/h where he tried to overtake a Toyota van.
He collided with the van while that driver was turning right into her driveway.
Atkinson drove off, spinning his wheels and parked out the front of his home, leaving his keys in that vehicle.
The woman driving the van had to get out the passenger's door to comfort her highly upset young daughter.
Atkinson returned to the crash scene in another car, abused the van driver, claiming she failed to indicate and had wrecked his $16,000 station wagon.
At that time Mr Barden arrived at Atkinson's home and police said he stole the station wagon.
Soon after Atkinson saw Mr Barden running down Grey Street.
He abused Mr Barden and passed police who were conducting inquiries.
Police noted that Atkinson was in a rage and described him as being out of control.
He drove towards Mr Barden, who ran away.
Atkinson then stopped, revved his engine and police warned people at the scene to get behind a fence.
Mr Barden then punched a window of the car being driven by Atkinson with no effect and Atkinson drove off.
Atkinson was later arrested and said his actions had been stupid but he had being trying to protect his property.
Defence counsel Alex McCulloch said his client was well aware of Mr Barden's significant criminal history, there was a confrontation at Atkinson’s yard, then a car accident and by that stage Atkinson was rattled.
He said when Atkinson realised his station wagon had been stolen he was angry, frantic, irrational and desperate.
The solicitor said his client had a prior court appearance for failing to report an accident and in 2011 was one of 13 people who did burnouts at a friend's funeral.
The magistrate said it was remarkably fortunate that Atkinson was not attending another funeral.