AN angry woman swerved her car into her cycling partner “in a moment of madness” following a row, a court heard.

However, Toni Atkinson, 20, walked free from Durham Crown Court yesterday after the judge accepted it was a single angry act completely out of character.

Atkinson, now of Holdforth Crescent, Bishop Auckland, returned to court for sentence after a jury found her guilty of dangerous driving, and assault causing actual bodily harm, following a two-day trial, on September 1.

She had previously denied both charges.

No evidence was offered and a formal not guilty charge was recorded on the original count, of attempting to cause the victim, her ex-partner John Liam Walton, grievous bodily harm, with intent.

During the trial it was alleged that following an argument, on July 21, last year, she followed Mr Walton, who was riding a bike, and words were shouted from the window of her car in his direction.

The prosecution alleged she swerved into 23-year-old Mr Walton, in Collingwood Street, Coundon, near Bishop Auckland, knocking him off his bike and causing a fracture of his thumb and other injuries.

She claimed he swerved his bike towards her car, and she could not avoid a collision.

Atkinson drove a little farther on, before pulling up, after the collision.

Chris Baker, for Atkinson, told yesterday’s hearing that she still maintains her innocence.

But he added she was of previous good character and that the injuries suffered “were not the most significant”.

“This is a woman of good character who has proved, in the time since the offence, that she is unlikely to re-offend.”

Mr Baker said that Atkinson, who has a son, helps to care for her sick mother.

The judge, Recorder Stuart Brown, told her: “It’s not uncommon for someone of previous good character, who for the first time in their life has done something of this nature, can’t accept what they did was wrong. It has, rightly, been described as, a moment of madness.”

But. he said he was persuaded by Mr Baker’s mitigation not to impose an immediate custodial sentence.

Atkinson was given a ninemonth prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, with 200 hours’ unpaid work and a 60- day 9pm to 6am home curfew.

She was also banned from driving for a year.