A woman driver who faked panic attacks to avoid giving a breath test has been banned from the road for more than a year.

Laura Leslie repeatedly claimed that she needed medical help and refused to answer police questions after she was arrested in Brighton.

The 49-year-old was first spotted behind the wheel of her Ford Focus in Wilson Avenue, Brighton, at 6.15am on October 12.

She was spotted driving without her lights on and witnesses saw the car veer across the road, mount a kerb and almost hit a pole before officers stopped her on the A259 Marine Parade.

Leslie, 49, of Douglas Avenue in Hythe, Kent, was arrested on suspicion of drink-driving but claimed to be having a panic attack so an ambulance was called and she was taken to Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton.

Staff at the hospital decided that she was fit to be questioned but as soon as she was put in a police car she again said that she was having an attack.

After medical staff released her for the second time, Leslie refused to answer questions and repeatedly demanded to be allowed to go to the bathroom and to speak to a doctor.

When Leslie appeared at Brighton Magistrates’ Court she pleaded not guilty to failing to provide a specimen for analysis but was convicted and banned from driving for 20 months.

She was ordered to pay £250 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

PC Laura Stanley said: “Leslie tried everything to get off the hook, including forcing us to waste the time of doctors and nurses as we tried to test her for drink-driving.

“She even pleaded not guilty in court so wasted both our and her time trying to fight a charge that she knew she was guilty of.

“Now she’s got not only a ban from driving but also a big legal bill to pay.”

Mental health experts said panic attacks should not be taken lightly, with genuine sufferers forced never to leave their homes because of the severity of their condition.

Dr Brian Solts, consultant clinical psychologist at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “A panic attack is a deeply unpleasant and frightening experience, and those who suffer from panic attacks often think they are going to die, have a heart attack, or fear they have lost their mind, such is the intensity of the distress.”