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An unaccompanied learner driver has avoided prison after hitting and then driving over a cyclist in Dublin in what the driver said was a mistake in a moment of panic

An unaccompanied learner driver who hit a cyclist at a junction in Dublin and then drove over her, leaving her with injuries requiring the use of a wheelchair, has avoided going to prison.

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The judge in the case said he considered the driver less culpable because she simply did not see the cyclist in the road when the crash happened during the middle of a wet summer afternoon.

The driver – Paulina Galantkiewicz (34), Belmount Park, Raheny, Dublin – said when she hit cyclist Thames Aline Taveres she then accidentally pressed on the accelerator because she panicked.

When she did so, she drove over Ms Taveres, who was cycling home from work at the time. The court was told that Ms Taveres was seriously injured and now uses a wheelchair following the crash at the junction of Oak Road and Oak Drive in Clondalkin, Dublin, on June 1st, 2018.

The crash occurred at 3.25pm on the early summer afternoon and while it was raining. The court was told Ms Taveres was not wearing a helmet or hi-vis.

Ms Galantkiewicz pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to Ms Taveres. She was convicted on the second day of her trial last month and was sentenced today.

Her barrister, Dominic McGinn BL, told the court Ms Galantkiewicz’s driving fell at the lowest end of the spectrum as she had suffered a momentary lapse in concentration and had not seen the cyclist.

Judge Martin Nolan today said Ms Taveres had sustained “incredibly serious injuries” though he believed the driver’s culpability was on the lessor end of the spectrum and he imposed a two-year sentence which he suspended.

He also disqualified Ms Galantkiewicz from driving for four years but said she would not have to resit her driving test at the end of that ban. She has passed her test since the crash.

Judge Nolan was told during the trial last month that Ms Galantkiewicz was a learner driver who was driving home from a job interview unaccompanied. She said she was driving slowly and when she approached the T junction where the crash happened she checked both sides.

The court was also told she did not bring her car to a complete stop at the T junction ‘stop’ sign. Ms Taveres was cycling into the junction at the time on her way home from work, via a gym session.

Ms Galantkiewicz said she felt a bump in her car before accidentally accelerating when she intended to brake. The initial impact knocked Ms Taveres off her bike before the car then drove over her, causing serious injuries.

Ms Galantkiewicz then tried to help Ms Taveres before waiting for gardai to arrive and passing a roadside breath test. Ms Taveres was taken from the crash scene by ambulance to hospital.

Ms Galantkiewicz offered to plead guilty to careless driving causing serious bodily injury. However, that plea was not accepted by the prosecution and she stood trial on the more serious charge of dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm.

The court was told Ms Galantkiewicz had no criminal record, had a history of employment and that there were no aggravating factors involved in the crash such as speed, alcohol or mobile phone use, with Judge Nolan saying the fact she simply did not see Ms Taveres made her less culpable.

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