SNEAKY snake thieves successfully fled from a pet shop with their bizarre haul.

But their panicking getaway driver Jack Dawson drove in such an erratic manner that a member of the public alerted officers, who promptly gave chase.

The 19-year-old was sentenced to a 12-month community order as well as 60 hours of unpaid work and 20 days rehabilitation activities at Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday.

The court heard how Dawson refused to stop the car at first but soon stopped the vehicle. 

Dawson, who was driving his own Ford Fiesta, was arrested at the scene but the other culprits, who had pressured him into helping with the plan to wipe out a £100 drug debt, have so far escaped justice.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that Dawson, 19, drove with two other men to Warrington Pets and Exotics shop on the afternoon of January 11, 2018, after he had made 150 internet searches into exotic pets.

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While he stayed in the car, the thieves went into the premises on Lovely Lane, pretending to be customers.

At the time, the more expensive had been moved to the back of the shop as their cases were being cleaned.

Michael Stephenson, prosecuting, said: "The two thieves each picked up five boxes containing a total of ten corn snakes and began to leave.

"Two members of staff intervened, Joseph Atkinson was pushed and Gemma Owen was knocked to the ground but succeeded in preventing the second male taking his cases of snakes with him.”

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Mr Atkinson followed the thieves outside and was threatened by one of them.

The other man dropped one of his boxes and a snake escaped but Mr Atkinson managed to retrieve it.

The men jumped into Dawson’s waiting car and he set off at speed.

When he reached the junction with Lovely Lane, he did not slow down and another motorist had to swerve to avoid a collision.

The car mounted the pavement and turned into St Barnabas Place.

A member of the public alerted the police who gave chase and saw Dawson driving erratically 'at some speed'.

The gang abandoned the car and the police recovered the remaining stolen snakes, which were worth £600.

Dawson, a warehouse worker, was seen running away and when a policeman produced his Taser, Dawson threw himself to the ground and was arrested.

He explained when interviewed that he had been asked to drive to repay a £100 debt.

Jamie Baxter, defending, said that the defendant is 'a decent young man' without any previous convictions.

He comes from a supportive caring family and he has had the matter hanging over him for a year.

Dawson, who hopes to qualify as a mechanic, now realises his cannabis habit had got out of control and has 'knocked it on the head', the court heard.

Judge Anil Murray said that what had happened in the shop could be described as a robbery but Dawson, from Anfield, was not charged with that offence.

It was accepted he had not contemplated it would be a robbery.

Dawson, who had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal and dangerous driving, was also banned from driving for 12 months and must take an extended test before getting back behind the wheel.