A dangerous driver was tracked across fields by a police dog after fleeing a head-on accident in which he injured four French tourists.

Luke Hotson had been drinking and attacked a shop worker who stopped him stealing alcohol before he borrowed his partner's car and drove off into the night.

He drove too fast on the road between Ilfracombe and Barnstaple and had frightened other motorists by overtaking on blind bends before he hit a car containing the French visitors on the A361 at West Down.

He left them trapped inside their wrecked car as he ran off across country. He went through fields and waded across a river before being tracked by the police and arrested as he returned to his former home in Ilfracombe.

Luke Hotson, aged 25, of Lethaby Road, Barnstaple, admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving, assault causing actual bodily harm, aggravated vehicle taking, possession of cannabis, failing to provide a specimen of blood for analysis, failing to stop, and having no licence or insurance.

He was jailed for 18 months, suspended for two years, banned from driving for three years, and ordered to pay £500 compensation and do 200 hours unpaid community work and 20 days of rehabilitation activities by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him:"You embarked on a course of driving late at night which was on any view dangerous. It ended with a head on collision with a vehicle which was being driven in a perfectly correct way.

"You had some alcohol before you drove and drove at an inappropriate speed and overtook unsighted on bends. Afterwards, much to your discredit, you stopped only for long enough to say sorry and then left the victims stuck in their vehicle.

"You took to the hills, across fields and hedgerows and crossed a river. You were tracked by a police dog to your home."

Miss Caroline Bolt, prosecuting, said the accident on June 16 last year injured driver Jacques Morel and all three of his passengers, including Helene Morel, who is in her 70s and suffered a severely broken shoulder and is still in pain.

Police were already looking for Hotson because he had assaulted a cashier at the Premier Stores who had stopped him stealing alcohol. There was a struggle in which Hotson bit the victim in the chest, causing a small wound.

He fled the scene of the crash and later refused to give a blood or breath test. A small amount of cannabis was found at his home.

Mr Richard Crabb, defending, said Hotson has sought help for his drinking and cannabis use since the crash and is working hard as a labourer to look after his three children, the youngest of whom is a baby.

He has also done voluntary work and expressed genuine remorse for his actions as soon as he sobered up after the accident.