Wednesday 26 November 2014

Taxi driver attacks passenger with meat cleaver after refusing to give him his change from fare, court hears

Sinead Howlin and Declan Brennan

Published 11/03/2014 | 17:01

Criminal Courts of Justice (CCJ) Dublin

A taxi driver who attacked a passenger with a meat cleaver after refusing to give the victim his change has been jailed for three years.

Bolanje Banjo (50) kept driving the taxi while swiping at the passenger. The victim escaped by jumping from the moving taxi and rolling out of the way of oncoming traffic.

Banjo of New Ireland Road, Rialto had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm to Peter Brazil, production of an article intending to cause harm and dangerous driving on Neilstown road on August 8, 2011. He was convicted of all counts after a trial by jury.

Judge Patrick McCartan imposed a sentence of three years and disqualified Banjo from driving for 20 years.

Detective Garda Padraic Jennings told Ronan Kennedy BL, prosecuting, that Mr Brazil was on temporary release from Mountjoy Prison and had gone to the prison to sign on as part of his release conditions. After doing this he flagged down Banjo's taxi and asked to go to Clondalkin.

He noticed the driver had plastic partition all around where he was sitting and thought that must be for the driver’s protection.

Banjo told the passenger he would have to pay in advance and Mr Brazil gave him €15 through a hole in the partition.  When they arrived in Clondalkin the fare on the meter was less than €15 and Mr Brazil asked for his change.

The taxi driver then became aggressive and started cursing at the passenger and refused to give any money back. Mr Brazil reached out to take Banjo’s taxi identification in order to take down his name and taxi number.

Banjo struck the victim in the left arm with what Mr Brazil thought was a cut throat razor. He said it was very sharp and that blood squirted everywhere. He said that Banjo cursed and shouted racist and abusive remarks while making circular swipes at him with the knife through the hole in the perspex partition.

Mr Brazil opened his door to try and get away from the driver but Banjo had driven off again. He told Mr Brazil he would cut his throat and called him a "junkie b******".

When the victim asked him to relax the driver told him "I'll f****** kill you". The court heard that Banjo was driving furiously and dangerously, driving on the wrong side against traffic and causing other drivers to swerve to avoid a crash.

Mr Brazil felt frightened for his life. He jumped from the car onto the roadway and rolled to the side of the road to avoid oncoming cars. Gardai found him in a distressed state with blood pouring from both hands. He had held onto the taxi driver's ID card and gardai took this. They later found a small and blood stained meat cleaver in the car.

Banjo drove on and two concerned onlookers followed him in separate cars until gardai caught up and arrested him.

The taxi driver claimed that Mr Brazil was armed with a gun and a knife and had tried to rob him.

During his trial Banjo claimed he wasn't the man in the taxi or the man arrested and interviewed by gardai. The jury were shown the video footage of the interviews in Ronanstown garda station.

Judge McCartan remarked after conviction that this line of defence was nonsense.

Oisin Clarke BL, defending, said that his client is a Nigerian native who has been in Ireland since 1998 and is only one stage away from becoming a naturalised citizen. He says the final decision is up to the Justice Minister and is dependant on the outcome of this case.

He said Banjo suffers from psychiatric and psychological problems and spent some time in the Central Mental Hospital in 2012.

Judge McCartan said it is clear that Banjo suffers from a psychotic delusion and this was evident from the appearance of the car, which was surrounded on the inside by a perspex covering with security holes and with signs everywhere regarding how passengers should conduct themselves.

Irish Independent

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