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CITY TRIBUNE

Former student jailed for five years for stalking young woman

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Stalker Igor Lewandowski

A 21-year-old former NUIG student, whom a judge described as “a dangerous young man who continues to pose a risk of serious harm to the public”, has been sentenced to seven years in prison with the final two years suspended for stalking a fellow student and attacking her friend with a hammer.

The conduct of Igor Lewandowski (21), from Monasterevin, Co. Kildare, was also described as ‘sinister’ by the probation service and his expressions of remorse ‘shallow’ by mental health experts.

Lewandowski was a second-year electronic engineering student at NUIG when he became obsessed with 20-year-old Eve McDowell, and began stalking and harassing her incessantly over a 17-day period in May of last year.

He drastically changed his appearance – by shaving off his hair, eyebrows and beard – when her friends pointed out to him during one stalking episode that he was easily recognisable.

He was arrested shortly after breaking into her apartment and assaulting her flatmate with a hammer very early on the morning of May 27 last and remained in custody since.

Lewandowski pleaded guilty last November before Galway Circuit Criminal Court to harassing Ms McDowell at her student accommodation at Dun na Coiribe, Headford Road, and also at various other locations around the city on dates between May 10 and May 27, 2019.

He also pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated burglary by breaking into her apartment at Dun na Coiribe on May 27 last year, while having a claw hammer with him which he used to assault her flatmate Alison Buicke, causing her harm.

The accused, who moved from Poland to Monasterevin with his family ten years ago, was refused bail on six occasions since his incarceration last year.

His sentence hearing took place last week at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.

The initial hearing last November heard evidence from Det Bernard McLoughlin that the accused met Ms McDowell in a group setting through mutual friends. He began to follow her to and from NUIG to where she lived between May 10 and 27 last year.

He followed her to her place of part-time work in a clothing shop in the city centre at weekends and evenings and even stalked her when she met friends for lunch or went out at night.

Ms McDowell and her friends did not take his stalking behaviour seriously at first but she became alarmed and immediately contacted Gardaí when Lewandowski rang her doorbell early one morning and she could see as he pressed his face to the glass that he had shaved off his hair, eyebrows and beard.

Gardaí cautioned him to stay away from her but a few days later he returned to her flat at 6.30am, climbed onto her balcony using a scaffolding pole from a nearby building site and entered the apartment through an open door.

He was carrying a claw hammer and used it to attack her flatmate, Alison Buicke, as she slept on a couch in the sitting room, hitting her on the head and arms. She fended off the blows with her duvet and raised the alarm.

Lewandowski fled, jumping from the balcony onto a shrubbery below.

Gardai later found a sharp knife, an empty Viagra packet and a scaffolding pole at that location. Forensic examination failed to link him to the items and he denied all knowledge of them.

Lewandowski sprained his ankle in the jump and was found crawling along a busy road half a kilometre away by Gardaí a short time later.

He was arrested and only admitted both offences during a third interview.

Det McLoughlin said there had been clear premeditation as Lewandowski admitted he didn’t brought his mobile phone with him that morning because he knew Gardaí would be able to trace his movements if he had done so.

He claimed he was going to use the hammer to break the side window and gain entry through the front door to the apartment.He showed no remorse at the time.

Lewandowski admitted that while stalking Ms McDowell he had calculated the best vantage points in the student accommodation complex where she lived, from where he could simultaneously check her movements along either of two paths leading to and from her apartment.  The hidden vantage point also afforded him a clear view through her bedroom window and the front door leading to her apartment block.

He claimed he had lent her €200 two months beforehand and that was why he had followed her for over two weeks and had gone to her apartment to get the money back.  He subsequently changed his story, telling Gardaí he had gone to the apartment to speak to her about his conduct.

In her victim impact statement read to the court last November, Ms McDowell said she feared for her life if Lewandowski was released from custody.

She said the court process had been very long but she encouraged others who may be victims of stalking to come forward and make a complaint to Gardai.

She expressed relief that the process had come to an end and that her stalker had been sent to prison.

Ms Buicke was diagnosed with PTSD following the attack and continues to be treated for her symptoms, the court heard.

Two psychosocial reports and a probation report handed into court at the time, concurred the accused had displayed no empathy for either of his victims and he posed a risk of using similar violence in the future.

Passing sentence last week, Judge Rory McCabe said the probation service had described Lewandowski’s conduct as ‘sinister’, and that it had crossed “a number of moral and social boundaries”.

“They note clear indicators of a continued risk of serious harm to the public,” he said.

The judge noted Lewandowski was not suffering from any serious mental disorder, having been assessed by two psychologists and a forensic psychiatrist.

They had concurred the accused displayed a lack of genuine empathy for his victims and that his expression of remorse was shallow and self-serving as he was anxious about the sentence he would receive.

Judge McCabe said the evidence showed Lewandowski posed a risk of recidivism which meant a significant custodial sentence was unavoidable.

There was no evidence, he said, that the defendant had “any wish to engage in rehabilitation or accept the help that he obviously needs if he is not to pose an ongoing risk to the public.

“His conduct and attitude has shown him to be a dangerous young man,” Judge McCabe said.

The judge observed there was no way of knowing if the aggravated burglary was due to the Gardaí warning given a few days beforehand.

The judge said he was sorry for the accused, who, at a young age faced a significant custodial sentence, but he said he was far more sorry for the two young girls “whose lives, hopes and dreams were turned upside down” by Lewandowski’s conduct.

“I contrast his reported insouciance and lack of empathy with the total upheaval of their lives, their education and career paths,” he said.

The judge said Lewandowski’s true intent in breaking into the apartment armed with a weapon, remains unknown.

“But there are strands of evidence that suggest an intention to do more than talk or seek repayment of a fictitious loan.

“There is also evidence, perhaps tenuous, that his preparations included possessing a sharp knife, an empty Viagra packet and a form of scaffolding, all found at or near the locus.  He denies ownership of any of these and there is no forensic evidence linking these to the defendant, other than their location.

“Had such evidence been forthcoming, the gravity of these offences would be elevated to a much higher level,” the judge observed.

He sentenced Lewandowski to three and a half years for harassing Ms McDowell and imposed a concurrent seven-year sentence for the aggravated burglary.

“In recognition of the public interest, rehabilitation and as an incentive and an active deterrent, I will suspend the final two years of the seven-year sentence for five years, with 12-month post release supervision,” Judge McCabe said.

Lewandowski, he added, was entitled to credit for time served and should be afforded medical treatment and counselling while in prison if he wished to avail of it.

The accused was bound to keep the peace for five years on his release as part of the suspended sentence.

He remained expressionless during the lengthy hearing and did not react when sentence was passed.

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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