Published: 15:02, 16 November 2018
| Updated: 16:25, 16 November 2018
A drink-driver driver has been jailed for 12 years for deliberately driving into a crowd of people standing outside a 700 year old pub - leaving seven people with injuries.
Witnesses later described the impact of the “revenge” attack was so shocking "it was like a bomb going off".
James Bates' Vauxhall Corsa smashed into the Cinque Ports Arms in High Street in New Romney at 33mph and became embedded into a wall.
Video: The shocking moment James Bates crashes his car into the Cinque Ports Arms
The 25-year-old claimed he had just split from his girlfriend and had been trying to commit suicide after snorting ketamine in the vehicle.
Now Judge Simon James told him it was “a miracle” that no-one was seriously injured.
He added: “You made a quite conscious decision to drive your vehicle at speed into deliberate collision with innocent people standing outside the pub.
“This was an appalling incident where you used your car as a weapon with the intention of inflicting serious injury of multiple victims.
“I have no doubt that this was done in revenge or retaliation.”
Victim Matthew Lamb, Lydd student and amateur footballer, received fractures to his left arm and right leg.
The judge said: “Others were mercifully extremely lucky and avoided serious physical injury but that was only through simple good fortune.”
Landlady Sharon Epps later told how she feared that her business partner and the landlord, father-of-four Kevin Gibbons - whose wife was pregnant in November last year - had been killed or injured.
She said: "I saw Sarah, his wife, she was distressed and in shock. It hit me seeing Sarah that Kevin was outside.
"The impact was so fierce I was so scared about what I might see..." Landlady Sharon Epps
"We didn't need to say anything but we were both thinking 'oh my god who has been killed or injured?'
"I had a sick feeling in my gut. I went outside to see what the situation was. I was fearing the very worst. The impact was so fierce I was so scared about what I might see. When I got outside I began screaming Kevin's name."
Th incident was caught on the pub's CCTV and shown to Judge Simon James, revealing the fear among the drinkers.
Prosecutor Don Ramble told Canterbury Crown Court how Bates had been "dragged out of the pub" minutes earlier after becoming embroiled in a scuffle with door staff and drinkers.
Outside Bates was attacked by another man before getting into his car in a car park, reversing and seconds later driving at people.
Mr Lamb was taken to the William Harvey Hospital with fractures to his leg and arm.
Bates, previously of Blenheim Road, New Romney, was initially charged with attempted murder but on the day he was due to stand trial pleaded guilty to six charges of attempting to causing grievous bodily harm and one of causing BGH. He also admitted causing serious injury by driving dangerously.
The court heard how earlier that evening, he had been "upset and negative" talking to another drinker and told him he was living with his grandparents as he had split from a girlfriend.
Tests later showed Bates was above the drink-drive limit and had BZE, a cocaine by-product in his system.
He also claimed to have snorted Ketamine in the car seconds before driving at people.
The landlord later revealed in an impact statement that he, his wife and four children, have since moved to Spain.
Another victim Freddy Smith had told how Bates had "stuck his head into a conversation" and claimed he knew him "even though he did not".
Mr Ramble added: "Mr Smith said to the barman Craig Bull that he needed to get Bates out as he was causing trouble and then turned his back on Bates.
"A few minutes later Bates returned and went to headbutt Mr Smith but missed and hit his chest, "
Another drinker Niall Gordon described Bates as "intoxicated and aggressive" and the pub security guard Adrian Knotts ejected him from the pub.
Lee Karu QC, defending, said he was upset after the break-up of his relationship and missed his child.
He was diagnosed with PTSD following a robbery he witnessed at work, to which the judge commented: “I am sure the irony of you, who has apparently suffered psychologically following trauma, causing so many others to endure similar suffering will not be lost on your victims.”
"The way you massively over-reacted to a minor situation has completely rocked me to the core..." Adrian Knotts
One of the victims, war hero Adrian Knotts wrote an open letter to Bates which was read to the court.
In it security guard Mr Knotts wrote: “Mr Bates, The actions you took on the night of November 24 have had a dramatic impact on my life in a way I never thought possible.
“I have seen many things in my time. Thirteen years of my life was spent in the army, that included active service in the Gulf War in 1991 but the way you massively over-reacted to a minor situation has completely rocked me to the core.
“Your vehicle missed crippling me for life by a fraction of a second. I have children, Mr Bates.
“I have mentally mapped out how I will raise them and educate them by way of life experiences to help prepare her for this crazy world we live in and in a moment of madness you very nearly took all those dreams away from me but most importantly from her.
“Not only did you damage me mentally but you’ve also affected me financially, too. I have had to be moved from the Cinque Port Arms as my concentration levels were non-existent due to the constant fear of another car slamming into the pub in the same manner as you did.
“So as a result of that move I lost time and ultimately the end result of that is I have lost out financially.
“You’ll never understand the repercussions of your actions, Mr Bates."
Kent Police investigating officer Detective Constable Chris Brett said: "James Bates was seen to drive his car around the block in order to accelerate his car into the crowd of people standing outside the pub, showing this was a pre-meditated attack.
"Considering the damage a car can cause, the people who were outside the pub at the time of the collision are fortunate their injuries were not worse. Regardless of injury, to be targeted in such a frightening and unprovoked way can have wide-reaching detrimental effects on those involved.
"I thank those who have assisted with and supported the investigation and subsequent prosecution."