The court room was left in utter shock yesterday as horrifying camera footage of a high-speed car chase was played out for all to see.
The footage, which showed the view from the pursuing Garda patrol car, revealed the dangerous and potentionally fatal risks that speeding drunk driver, Marcin Lewandowski, was willing to take to evade arrest, sometimes reaching speeds of over 160kmph down narrow roads and narrowly missing on-coming vehicles.
After viewing the footage and hearing evidence a shocked Judge Aeneas McCarthy convicted the 23-year-old Polish national and sentenced him to a total of four months in prison and disqualified him from driving for 15 years.
The Galway District Court heard yesterday how Lewandowski with an address at Apartment 6 Aras Dun Laise, Rahoon, pleaded guilty to a number of offences including possession of cannabis, drink driving, driving without insurance, and more than 15 counts of dangerous driving on June 5, 2010.
Garda Gerry Sweeney gave evidence that a checkpoint had been set up at Quincentennial Bridge when a black Volkswagen Passat approached but suddenly turned and headed back towards Kirwin’s roundabout overtaking cars on the “on-coming lane”. When the speeding car reached the roundabout it cut across two lanes and went through red traffic lights.
Garda Sweeney said that the pursuit then went through various parts of the city until the vehicle was eventually abandoned and the defendant arrested and brought to Galway Garda station where he gave an intoxiliser reading of 55mgs of alcohol per 100ml of breath and a small quantity of cannabis was found in his possession.
The court’s attention was then drawn to camera footage showing the chase taking place. Explaining the scenes unfolding Garda Sweeney said that the defendant’s car was driven to Menlo Park Hotel and turned into the housing estates of Tirellan Heights and then Ballinfoyle Park. At this point the car was seen dangerously swerving onto the wrong side of the road and flying over ramps at speeds of up to 70kmph. The speed increased to up to 100kmph when Lewandowski reached the N84 Headford Road, where he swerved around traffic islands narrowly avoiding on-coming cars. He then took a narrow side road at Ballindooley Cross driving at high speeds to get to the N17 Galway to Tuam road. The chase finally ended at the N18 Claregalway to Oranmore road when the defendant, after yet another near collision, pulled into the hard shoulder on the wrong side of the road and attempted to flee the scene by jumping over a stone wall and into fields. The court then heard that the defendant has no previous convictions and that he fully co-operated once arrested.
Defence solicitor Adrian MacLynn said that the unemployed mechanic had a lot of drink taken on the date in question and that he plans to return home to Poland. He added that when Lewandowski saw the Garda checkpoint he panicked.
“He does deserve a prison sentence,” said Judge McCarthy before imposing the four month sentence and 15 year disqualification. He then granted leave to appeal but ordered that, in the event of an appeal being lodged, he wanted the Circuit Court to be informed that 15 counts of dangerous driving were taken into consideration.