A MAN caught drug driving and without a licence or insurance claimed he was behind the wheel to avoid gangs in his local area.

Bolton magistrates heard how Mccauley Farnworth's Fiat Punto was stopped by police carrying out checks on Lea Gate Close, Harwood on July 10 last year.

Leigh Morgan, prosecuting said 20-year-old Farnworth admitted he had no driving licence or insurance to drive the vehicle, which had false number plates.

"Police could smell cannabis and he admitted that he had been using it," said Ms Morgan.

Farnworth, of Woodbine Road, Deane, who has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to drug driving and having no licence or insurance.

Tracy Haslam, defending, described Farnworth as a "vulnerable individual " who suffers from anxiety and depression and had been targeted by a gang in the area and previously been beaten up.

"He purchased the vehicle for two reasons, firstly to sell on and make a profit but secondly, to give him some independence," said Ms Haslam.

"He has been feeling trapped in his home and he purchased the vehicle to give him some independence in order to leave the house.

"He didn't feel like he could walk the streets."

She added that Farnworth had been using the cannabis to self-medicate and help him relax and had used it the evening before he drove the car.

Farnworth was banned from applying for a driving licence for 18 months, fined £200 and ordered to pay £119 in costs and charges.