A driver who led police on a high-speed chase through suburban streets then jumped into the ocean off Warilla to avoid capture has narrowly escaped jail time.
Jayden Poole, 23, was forced to tread water 100 metres out to sea for almost an hour on the evening of July 19 last year after fleeing from pursuing officers.
Police called in the Toll helicopter after Poole disappeared into the surf just before 10pm. He gave himself up 45 minutes later, swimming back to shore where he was promptly arrested.
In Wollongong Local Court on Tuesday, Magistrate Susan McGowan labelled Poole's antics "one of the most dramatic" responses to a police chase she'd ever seen during her time on the bench.
"I haven't seen anything like this before," she said.
"It's one of the most dramatic [ends to a police chase] I've ever seen. He put himself and everyone nearby in grave danger."
Documents tendered to the court said Poole had borrowed his uncle's Mercedes Benz to collect a female friend from the Central Hotel at Shellharbour and ended up giving two other men a lift.
Police said they spotted the Mercedes travelling at speed along Landy Dr at Mount Warrigal and attempted to stop it, however Poole sped off, heading towards Warilla.
The court heard Poole hit a top speed of 100km/h in signposted 50km/h zones, with the car getting "partially airborne" as he sped over roundabouts and speed humps without slowing down.
The Mercedes ran a red light at the intersection of Pur Pur Avenue and Shellharbour Road before Poole dumped the car on Reddall Parade.
Poole and his three passengers all fled the scene. Officers arrested two of the passengers but couldn't catch Poole before he ran into the ocean.
Meanwhile, police questioned the passengers, who identified the driver of the vehicle as "Jayden".
Poole was taken to hospital as a precaution after he returned to shore.
He was subsequently arrested the following day and charged with a single count of police pursuit.
In court on Tuesday, defence lawyer Graeme Morrison said Poole's autism and had long-standing post-traumatic stress disorder had been "triggered" by the police lights and sirens.
"The people sitting in the car with him told him not to stop and he panicked," Mr Morrison said.
"He's expressed remorse, he knows he's done the wrong thing and he's extremely lucky no one was injured."
Magistrate McGowan accepted there was a link between Poole's autism and his reaction that day and sentenced him to a 12-month intensive correction order with 100 hours of unpaid community service work.
He was also fined $1,000 and had his licence disqualified for two years.