22 March 2024

Serial drink driver spared jail after crashing into cyclist, causing brain injury

| Albert McKnight
Queanbeyan District Court

Simon Joseph Lewis has been handed an intensive corrections order by the Queanbeyan District Court. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

A driver found to have had alcohol and drugs in his system after he veered off the road and crashed into the back of a cyclist, sending the 67-year-old flying over his car, has been spared a jail term.

Instead Simon Joseph Lewis, 35, was sentenced to one year and eight months’ jail to be served via an intensive corrections order (ICO), which is a community-based sentence.

“The offence is patently a serious offence,” Judge Peter Whitford said, in Queanbeyan District Court.

The victim was riding in the cycle lane along Lanyon Drive in Queanbeyan on 2 December 2022 when Lewis veered into the lane and hit the back of his bicycle, throwing him a metre over the top of his Volkswagen Tiguan.

But Lewis returned to the road and continued driving. Two witnesses followed him in their cars until he pulled over after about 650 metres.

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“What are you doing? You need to go back,” one of the witnesses told him. He agreed to let them drive him back to the scene.

Judge Whitford said the victim had “sustained an amazing catalogue of injuries”. These included a bleed on his brain, a traumatic brain injury, skull fractures, spine fractures, bruised lungs and rib fractures.

The judge said it was clear the victim suffered “significant and extensive injuries” and the impact of the crash continued to affect his “life, health and wellbeing”.

Lewis, who was uninjured, returned a positive breath test for alcohol and a breath analysis gave a reading of 0.0843 grams. He also returned a positive reading for methylamphetamine.

He told police the incident had been “extremely quick”. He said he reached to his left to grab something, possibly cigarettes, then heard a bang and didn’t know what it was.

But Lewis “took his whole attention away from his driving” in a “significant way” when he tried to grab the item, which meant it was “far more than momentary inadvertence or inattention”, Judge Whitford said.

“The victim didn’t contribute in any way to the incident,” he said.

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The victim’s wife read a statement he wrote to the court last week.

“I will never be the same. I will always have ongoing limitations which will be exacerbated as I age,” he said.

The court also heard this was the third time Lewis had engaged in drink driving, as he already had two convictions for doing so in NSW, including one occasion in which he was disqualified from driving for nine months.

The prosecutor said it seemed he had had an issue with alcohol for “a very long time”.

Lewis, who sat with his head in his hands through part of his sentencing, had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm, failing to stop and assist following an impact, as well as alcohol and drug driving.

As part of his ICO, he was ordered to abstain from both alcohol and drugs.

He lost his driver’s licence on the day of his offence and on Thursday he was disqualified from driving for a further 12 months.

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