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Learner who drove her car over cyclist while unaccompanied avoids jail

Paulina Galantkiewicz told her trial that she “basically panicked” and hit the accelerator instead of the brakes.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

A WOMAN CONVICTED of causing serious injuries to a cyclist after running her over while driving unaccompanied as a learner driver has been given a suspended sentence.

Paulina Galantkiewicz (34) told her trial that she “basically panicked” after realising her car had collided with someone, hit the accelerator instead of the brakes and rolled over the cyclist on the ground.

Galantkiewicz of Belmont Park, Raheny had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to Thames Aline Taveres (34) at Oak Road, Clondalkin, on 1 June 2018. She has no previous convictions.

Last month a jury returned a verdict of guilty on the sole count after deliberating for an hour and a half and sentencing was adjourned to today.

Judge Martin Nolan today said that this was a particularly tragic case in which Taveres sustained “incredibly serious injuries” which have had very serious consequences for her.

An “extremely detailed” victim impact statement totalling 17 pages was handed in by John Byrne SC, prosecuting, but not read in open court.

Judge Nolan noted the graphic description of the effects of the injuries on Taveres’ and her husband’s lives, as well as family and friends who have also been affected by the trauma endured.

He said the defendant had been driving her car from a minor to a more major road where she was obliged to stop and give right of way to users of the major road. He said for whatever reason she did not observe the cyclist and the impact took place. The car rolled over Ms Taveres causing “terrible injuries.”

Judge Nolan said it seemed to him dangerous driving causing serious harm was an elastic offence ranging from serious culpability to little or no real culpability.

He said in this case he considered Galantkiewicz’s culpability to be on the lessor side in that she simply did not see the cyclist. He noted there were no aggravating factors such as speed, talking on the phone, alcohol or drugs, and no great element of recklessness.

He took into account in mitigation that she had no relevant criminal record, a good work history as well as her general and family circumstances. He said she should have had a qualified driver with her but it was “probably unlikely” that it would have helped.

He said it may be at the lessor end of culpability but the consequences for the injured party had been terrible. He said he had to decide if Galantkiewicz deserved a custodial sentence by reason of her actions by balancing what occurred, as well as the mitigating factors.

He imposed a two year suspended sentence, as well as an automatic four-year disqualification from driving. He certified that Galantkiewicz did not have to resit her driving test after that period.

Dominic McGinn BL, defending, urged the court to recognise that this case fell at the lowest end of the spectrum and said there had been a momentary lapse in concentration on the part of his client who had not seen the cyclist.

He submitted to Judge Nolan that the presence of a qualified driver would have made little difference as every driver was responsible for their own actions.

He said the qualified driver was there to make sure nothing “glaring” went wrong but keeping a good lookout was at the behest of the driver. He said she should have paid attention but did not.

McGinn said his client was someone with an unblemished record and this incident has had a significant effect on her own life and psychological wellbeing. He handed in a letter written by Galantkiewicz setting out her genuine remorse and a heartfelt apology.

He said the automatic driving disqualification and the fact she now has a criminal record were both very real punishments. He submitted the imposition of a custodial term would destroy her career prospects which was a punishment not merited by what happened on the day.

Byrne said the prosecution case in relation to dangerous driving was that she had failed to bring the vehicle to a halt, failed to keep a lookout, as well as failing to bring the car to an immediate halt after the collision, continuing to drive over the victim resulting in serious harm.

The court heard Galantkiewicz had offered to plead guilty to careless driving causing serious bodily injury but this was not accepted by the State. She has since passed her driving test.

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The trial heard that Taveres suffered extensive injuries and continues to suffer ongoing effects The court had previously heard that the victim now uses a wheelchair.

Sergeant Paul Carney told John Byrne SC, prosecuting, that Galantkiewicz, a learner driver, had been attending a job interview. She had driven to the location accompanied by a full driving licence holder who had left while she was at the interview.

She drove away afterwards alone to meet the person who had accompanied her there.

Taveres had left her workplace to cycle home through the same industrial estate.

Carney agreed with Byrne that the weather was relatively poor with rain, possibly reduced visibility and the road surface was wet. The cyclist was not wearing a cycle helmet or high visibility vest.

He said there was a highly visible stop sign at the junction where the impact occurred but no road marking as to where precisely to halt. The car braked but failed to halt and the collision occurred.

There were no independent witnesses at the scene but CCTV was recovered from nearby premises.

Galantkiewicz made a voluntary statement to gardaí and told them she had panicked and pressed the accelerator instead of the brake. She produced a valid learner permit to gardaí.

Byrne said Taveres had spent a considerable time in hospital and was still suffering considerably from the effects of her injuries. She has not worked since the date of the accident.

Carney agreed with Dominic McGinn SC, defending, that Galantkiewicz had co-operated fully.

About the author:

Fiona Ferguson

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