Court finds civilian guilty of causing 2017 accident involving former PM's motorcade

TVN24 News in English, PAP
Accident involving motorcade carrying Polish Deputy PM Beata Szydło
Accident involving motorcade carrying Polish Deputy PM Beata SzydłoTVN24 International
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TVN24 InternationalAccident involving motorcade carrying Polish Deputy PM Beata Szydło

A court in Oświęcim (Lesser Poland) has delivered a verdict in a trial regarding the 2017 car accident involving a government limousine carrying the then prime minister Beata Szydło. The case has been conditionally discontinued. However, the driver of a fiat seicento which collided with the state limo has to pay compensation to Mrs Szydło and one of the officers from her security detail.

Prosecution wanted Sebastian Kościelnik, a man who drove a fiat seicento which collided with PM Szydło's limousine, to be found guilty and sentenced to one year in prison, as well as to 20 hours per month of supervised, unpaid labour. The prosecutor said he called for such a lenient sentence due to the defendant's young age.

Mr Kościelnik's attorney, in turn, called for his client to be fully acquitted.

"I wish all charges would be dropped, that they would acquit me," Sebastian Kościelnik said on Wednesday.

The court passed the verdict after 2pm on Thursday, July 9, nearly 3,5 years after the accident.

Sebastian Kościelnik was found guilty of causing the accident, but at the same time the court agreed to conditionally discontinue the case. The seicento driver will have to pay a 1,000-zloty compensation to former PM Szydło and one of the officers from her security detail.

The court also ruled the BOR officer driving the car with PM Szydło on board had also violated the traffic regulations. This separate case will now be referred to the prosecutor's office.

Furthermore, the court said the cars forming the government motorcade did not have the priority status as they had only used light signals, and no sound.

Closing arguments

On Tuesday, in a Kraków court, part of the closing arguments were made behind closed doors. According to TVN24 reporter, Marta Gordziewicz, the arguments pertained to materials deemed classified during the investigation and later on during the trial. The said materials include testimonies of the then prime minister Beata Szydło, officers of the already dissolved Government Protection Bureau (BOR), as well as classified directives regarding transport of key state figures.

In the earlier, open part of closing arguments, the prosecutor tried to prove that Sebastian Kościelnik had displayed ignorance about traffic regulations, recklessness and arrogance. "In the closing speech, I have presented arguments supporting the possibility and the legitimacy of finding Sebastian Kościelnik guilty as charged. Obviously, I haven't presented all materials, only those which I was allowed to discuss publicly," a district prosecutor from Kraków, Rafał Babiński, said at the time.

Babiński also asked Kościelnik if he had thanked the government limo driver for trying to manoeuvre in such a way to minimise the impact and thereby saving his life, as well as if he had apologised the driver and Beata Szydło for causing them serious injuries. Mr Kościelnik did not hide his outrage with these words. "The prosecutor's words were way out of order (...) It was sheer arrogance on his part," said the seicento driver.

The defendant's attorney, Władysław Pociej, also gave a closing speech, in which he argued that the BOR motorcade drivers were to blame for causing the accident. "In my opinion, if we strip the government vehicles of the priority status, and additionally prove that their drivers had been violating all regulations - driving against the traffic, crossing double lines, overtaking at crossroads, driving with speed causing bemusement - then these are circumstances which must prove the guilt of those men. In my view, Sebastian Kościelnik could only bear responsibility for this accident, if he could see or hear the privileged cars," Mr Pociej said after the court session.

Government motorcade accident

Sebastian Kościelniak has been charged of causing an accident in February 2017. His seicento collided with an audi carrying the then prime minister Beata Szydło, which going in the middle of a three-car government motorcade. The man has pleaded not guilty.

The police said the motorcade carrying PM Szydło was overtaking the seicento. Its driver, 21-year-old Sebastian Kościelnik, allowed the first car to go through and then began turning left. He hit the car with Beata Szydło inside, which immediately after crashed into a tree. The former prime minister and BOR officers suffered injuries.

The prosecutor's office charged the seicento driver with causing a car accident. Investigators relied on expert witnesses' findings, who had said that - regardless of whether the motorcade had been using sound signals or not - the accident was caused only and directly by the fiat driver. In addition, the investigators said he did not recognise the road situation correctly at the time.

In mid-March, 2018, a district prosecutor's office in Kraków asked the court in Oświęcim to conditionally discontinue the case. The investigators wanted to place Mr Kościelnik under a 1-year trial period and order him to pay-1,500 zloty fine.

Sebastian Kościelnik, together with his attorney Władysław Pociej, refused to agree for the case to be discontinued. On July 27, 2018, a court in Oświęcim decided the case would end in a trial.

The trial began in mid-October 2018. During its course several dozen witnesses were questioned, of which only one testified the government motorcade had light and sound signals on.


Źródło: TVN24 News in English, PAP

Źródło zdjęcia głównego: TVN24

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