Judge Keenan Johnson
A man who left the scene of an accident in Ballymahon in which another man sustained two broken legs nearly two years ago, and who pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing bodily harm at last week’s circuit court in Longford was sentenced to three years in prison of which the judge suspended the last two following his ruling on the matter.
The court heard how on the date in question Mr Dudek - who was born in Poland and arrived in Ireland in 2011 - was driving his car when he swerved to avoid a cat, mounted a footpath and hit a steel barrier that subsequently collapsed on a pedestrian walking in the area.
The pedestrian suffered two broken legs in the incident - “life changing injuries” the court was told.
The court also heard that Mr Dudek went into shock and thinking that he had “killed a man”, left the scene and did not return home until 7am the next morning.
In the meantime gardaí made inquiries about the defendant’s whereabouts after they were alerted to the incident.
An ambulance was also called and the injured party was transferred to hospital.
Judge Johnson was then told that the defendant subsequently contacted gardaí at 6am to report the previous night’s accident.
In his direct evidence to the court Mr Dudek said he didn’t even remember leaving the scene of the accident.
“I was shocked; I was disturbed and I was afraid that I killed that man,” he continued.
“It was a terrifying experience and I can’t even remember leaving the car and walking away from the scene.”
He then apologised to the injured party for what he had done to him.
“I would like to sincerely apologise for the situation I caused; I am very sorry for causing this accident and I hope the man will get well soon,” said Mr Dudek.
Prosecuting Counsel, Mr Shane Geraghty BL said that the injured party had “numerous surgeries” since the incident and had been in a wheelchair for a time thereafter.
In his victim impact statement which was read into evidence during the circuit court hearing, the injured party said that prior to the accident, he was a healthy and fit man who worked full-time at Kepak in Ballymahon.
“I enjoyed sport,” he added, before pointing out that after the accident he lost his income, got divorced from his wife and stopped socialising.
He also lost contact with his daughter who lives overseas and no longer works.
“This accident destroyed my physical health as well as my mental health,” the injured party added.
During last week’s ruling, Judge Johnson said it was clear to him that the defendant’s driving had been “extremely dangerous” given that he had mounted the footpath, hit a barrier and resulted in serious injury to the victim.
“The fact that the accused did not remain at the scene and did not report the matter to the Gardaí until 6am the following morning, and did not seek assistance or aid for the victim are all aggravating factors that the court must take into account,” he continued.
“The effect of the offending on the victim is another factor that the court must take into account and it is clear that as a consequence of the accused’s dangerous driving the victim suffered life changing injuries.
“As a consequence the victim has been unable to return to work and is still suffering regular bouts of pain.”
In determining sentence, Judge Johnson said the court was satisfied that while a portion of the three year sentence could be suspended, it was equally satisfied that a custodial sentence could not be avoided given the actions of the defendant in the immediate aftermath of the accident.
“In particular the fact that the accused left the scene knowing that the victim was seriously injured is an extremely aggravating factor that the court cannot ignore,” added the Judge.
Mr Dudek was subsequently ordered to enter a bond of €500 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for a period of five years and pay the victim €5,000 within a period of two years post release.
He was also banned from driving for 10 years.
The prison sentence was backdated to November 14 which is the date that the defendant first went into the custody.