herald

Thursday 21 September 2017

Hit-and-run driver gets four years for councillor's death

Cllr Willie Crowley
Cllr Willie Crowley

A hit-and-run driver who knocked down and killed Kildare councillor Willie Crowley in December 2015 has been jailed for four years.

Mr Crowley (56) died from head injuries in Naas Hospital a few days after he was struck by a car driven by Damien Klasinski (29) on the evening of December 15, 2015. He had been walking home from his local pub at the time.

Klasinski, of The Oaks, Newbridge, Co Kildare, drove off after hitting Mr Crowley.

"What am I supposed to do?" he asked the three passengers in the car.

The passengers came forward to gardai and Klasinski was arrested the next day, when they found him hiding in a wardrobe at a friend's home.

He told gardai in interview that he had panicked.

"I am very sorry. It was an accident. I'm really hoping this man recovers," he said.

He later pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Crowley on Eyre Street, Newbridge.

Judge Melanie Greally adjourned the case earlier this month. Yesterday she handed down a five-and-a-half year sentence, suspending the last 18 months. She also disqualified him from driving for 10 years.

Klasinski, a Polish native, has 13 previous convictions, mainly for road traffic offences.

Remorse

The judge said Klasinski was entitled to credit for his plea of guilty, his admissions to gardai, his remorse, his employment history and family circumstances and the fact that, as a non-national, prison would be more difficult for him.

She also said that he drove too fast in conditions which demanded caution and a more moderate speed. He also had no licence or insurance.

The judge said this was the third time in 10 months that Klasinski was in trouble for driving offences.

In February 2015, he was driving while intoxicated and without insurance. In November 2015, he was again caught driving without insurance.

These offences did not come to court until the following year, when he received a two-year driving ban.

The judge said his decision to drive away from the accident showed an abject disregard for the life of his victim and was a serious aggravating factor.

In her victim impact statement, Mr Crowley's widow Claire Doyle said that her husband was taken from her "so brutally" and that her house was no longer a home.

"I have lost my husband, my best friend, my confidant and I do not look forward to my future," Ms Doyle said.

The victim's sister, Breda Crowley-Arnold, said her brother's name was a byword in her family for all that was good and admirable.

The judge said Mr Crowley was a man who gave unstintingly to his family and community and his death brought "incalculable suffering".

She added that Mr Crowley, who had planned to run in the next general election, had "bold and bright plans for the future".

Matthias Kelly, defending, said Klasinski realised the Crowley family had lost a cherished husband and was deeply remorseful.

He fully admitted what he had done and wanted now to offer his sincere apology and condolences to the family.

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