A DRIVER who ploughed into a group of cyclists, leaving one on the “edge of life and death”, after drinking spirits and strong lager has been jailed.

Victim Caroline James’ life was saved by her doctor sister Katherine Barnes and her husband Gerald Barnes who were riding with her after she was hit by Louise Griffiths.

Mrs Barnes is an anaesthetist and Mr Barnes has military experience of treating battlefield injuries, Newport Crown Court heard.

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Physiotherapist Miss James stopped breathing twice after being struck and has suffered “life-changing injuries” and now cannot walk unaided.

The medical staff on the ward where she worked at Cardiff’s University of Wales Hospital battled successfully to save her after she arrived with life-threatening injuries..

Griffiths, a 46-year-old grandmother, of Beddick, Greenmeadow, Cwmbran, crashed into Miss James at Llanllowell, near Usk, just after 4pm on the afternoon of Sunday, February 3.

The had been to a ball the night before where she had been drinking for eight hours and downed pink gins, white wine and Jäger bombs.

Gareth James, prosecuting, said she then got behind the wheel of her then boyfriend Jason Cook’s Volkswagen Jetta the next day and sank a pint of San Miguel and Stella Artois after two visiting bars.

She had just left the Greyhound when she struck keen sportswoman Miss James, her partner Martin Burrows and Mr and Mrs Barnes minutes later.

Hairdresser and keen horse rider Griffiths then sped off from the scene “leaving her victims for dead” as they lay sprawled on the floor.

Mr James said: “The defendant ignored the rules of the road. She said her passenger had told her, ‘Drive it like you stole it!’ The wheels came off the ground.”

She was described as “driving like a lunatic” and drove head on into the four cyclists.

The court heard how police initially believed Mr Cook was at the wheel of the Jetta and Griffiths’ barrister James Tucker said: “He has an appalling, lengthy criminal record for bad driving.”

The defendant pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving and dangerous driving.

She had no previous convictions.

Mr James read out a victim personal statement from Miss James in which she said: “This has had an unimaginable effect on my life. I was a young woman who had my whole life and career ahead of her.

“I won’t be able to return to the job I love. I will not be able to regain movement in my leg and the sporting activities that I love.”

Mr Tucker said on behalf of Griffiths: “She understands the harm she has caused. She is truly remorseful. She is not someone without morality.”

Judge Daniel Williams told the defendant: “You were described as driving like a lunatic and hurtled around a right hand bend at motorway speed and lost control of the car.

“Caroline James fought for her life and she is not trying to rebuild it.”

The judge said a back calculation estimated that Griffiths was one-and-half times over the legal drink-drive limit.

By the time police arrested her four hours after fleeing the crash, she was below the limit.

Judge Williams said: “You were topping up from the night before.”

He jailed her 27 months and banned her from driving for five years and one month.