LIFE for a woman with a passion for music has been ruined by a driver who crashed head-on into her car on a country road.

Panel beater Matthew Barnicott, 35, had overtaken a car and tried to pass a lorry, driving into a misty blind spot where the A543 dipped close to Bylchau, near Denbigh, a court heard today (Wednesday).

Barnicott, of Tan y Benar, Dolwyddelan, pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by driving his BMW dangerously and was jailed for two years and four months. He will be disqualified for six years and two months and will have to take an extended driving test after his release.

Judge Huw Rees said at Caernarfon crown court : “The level of injury in this case has resulted in the most appalling consequences for this young lady.”

Richard Edwards, prosecuting, said the crash was at about 6.15pm on October 2 last year when Miss Alaw Llwyd Owen, 31, of Denbigh, who worked for the Urdd, was returning home from her job in Bala.

“She set off at 5pm, recalls walking to her car in the car park, her next recollection is speaking to a speech therapist at Aintree Hospital about a month after,” he added.

Miss Owen had to be cut free from her red Peugeot 308 and the defendant was also unconscious, spending ten days in hospital.

Mr Edwards said Miss Owen suffered multiple injuries – to her head, abdomen and limbs, with breaks to ribs, wrist, forearm and feet, and had surgery.

At the beginning of November she’d been transferred from Aintree to Glan Clwyd Hospital, then later to Ruthin Hospital.

In impact statements read to the court Miss Owen, an Urdd events organiser, said she was having to live with her parents for support. Her sight and hearing had been affected, she had missed a trip to Ireland with Bro Cernyw choir, and it could take up to 18 months to return to a normal level.

She was unable to return to work, worried about being able to play the piano and “felt her spirit and mind trapped in the body of a pensioner.”

James Coutts, defending, said : “He’s mortified by what he’s done and realises that nothing that can be said will minimise the horrors.” Because there were no warning signs Barnicott had thought he would be able to see far enough ahead.

“There’s no suggestion there was a pattern of aggressive driving in the build up or going significantly over the speed limit,” said the barrister. “There is genuine remorse, he feels terrible about what he’s done and knows there is nothing he can do about what had happened.”

Although there was a minute amount of cannabis in his system from the previous night it played no part in the crash but he was shocked by how long it could stay in the body and had given it up.

Judge Rees said Barnicott had two joints of cannabis the previous night to “de-stress” from work but the amount in his body was too small – a measure of 0.6 against the limit of 2 - to have any bearing.

He remarked about Miss Owen : “Her life has been turned upside down. It’s been put on hold so far as her employment and independence is concerned.” She was in a job she loved, with travel across the length and breadth of Wales, but now she faced the prospect of further treatment and attendance at clinics. The level of harm in the case was high because of the appalling injuries.

The judge told Barnicott there was obvious remorse “with a sensitive appreciation of the victim’s position. I am impressed also that you have regard to the consequences to other people as a result of this driving. You have specifically referred to the effect on her family , those who saw the accident and to the emergency services and NHS staff who you say ‘have had to pick up the pieces’.”