independent

Thursday 22 June 2017

Taxi driver was assaulted, door kicked, keys taken

A taxi driver told Sligo District Court how he was assaulted by a passenger and had his mini van kicked after bringing home a number of men to Ballygawley after a night out in Bundoran.

John Kelly recalled how he agreed to bring five men to Bundoran and returned there at 3.30am to pick them up for an agreed fee of €60 each way.

However, when he got back to Ballygawley with them, one passenger hit him in the head and tried to put him in a headlock while he also kicked his driver's door. Another passenger took his keys and he had to rely on the Gardaí to bring him home.

As a result of an incident on December 28th 2014, Shane McCarrick (37) of Castledargan, Ballygawley was charged with assaulting Mr Kelly and damaging his taxi in the amount of €1,250.

McCarrick denied the charges and was represented by Ms Laura Spellman, solicitor.

Mr Kelly told the court how he brought five men who were known to him from Ballygawley to Bundoran for a fee of €60.

He returned to Sligo and had got several calls from the men saying they were ready to go home but kept changing the times.

Eventually, he went back to Bundoran at 3.30am for them and brought them back to Ballygawley. The men wanted to be dropped off at Kelly's pub there.

The men had paid €12 each and in Ballygawley the defendant gave him a tenner, another €12 and another €50.

He gave back the €12 and told them he had the fare and that he did not have the change of the €50. He had done the run for €25 less than he should have. The keys were taken out of the ignition by passenger, Keith McCormack who refused to give them back. Witness told the men he was going to have to ring the Gardaí.

While on the phone to Sligo Garda Station, McCarrick was roaring in the back to leave it down and he tried to pull the phone off him.

"He then gave me several thumps to the back of my head and tried to get me in a headlock," said Mr Kelly.

McCarrick then got out and threatened to break all windows in the taxi. He then kicked the driver's door. Mr Kelly said he suffered a "busted lip" a nose bleed and several "lumps to his head" in the assault. He had to take off four nights from work as a result. He didn't sleep at all that night. The next morning the defendant and a friend arrived at his house with his keys and they apologised.

He accepted an offer of a lift to his car which was still in Ballygawley about four miles from where he lived.

McCarrick said he'd fix the damage to the taxi by the New Year. McCarrick had rang him about three times on the matter but because it was Christmas time he couldn't get an estimate. He also just didn't want to talk to McCarrick.

In reply to Ms Spellman, Mr Kelly insisted that McCarrick was the last person out of the taxi.

He didn't go to hospital saying he didn't want to make a big scene that night. He just went home with the Gardaí in the patrol car. He also didn't know how bad his injuries were at the time.

He said the driver's door of his 2000 registered taxi had been strained and has to be replaced.

Ms Spellman put it to Mr Kelly that she found it hard to believe he took a lift from the defendant the next morning from a man who had apparently viciously assaulted him.

"I knew I wasn't in any danger as there was no drink involved and that they had sobered up the next morning," said Mr Kelly.

In reply to Inspector Donal Sweeney (prosecuting), Mr Kelly agreed there were two distinct foot marks on the door and these could be seen in pictures handed in to court.

Fergal McSharry told the court he was one of the five who took the taxi that night. He was alseep in the back on the way home and recalled being woken by the defendant telling him to come on after they had stopped in Ballygawley.

Witness said he was last out of the taxi. He recalled seeing the defendant talking to the driver as he got out. Mr McSharry said he walked away and didn't hear anything. He heard later about an issue over keys.

Garda Patrick Lynn, in evidence, said Gardaí got a report at 4am about a taxi driver having been assaulted in Ballygawley.

Witness arrived at 4.35 and spoke with Mr Kelly who outlined he had been assaulted by a passenger and there was damage done to his taxi and he had his keys taken. There was no one at the scene only Mr Kelly whom he brought home.

Garda Lynn said he could see there was an injury to Mr Kelly's bottom lip, a teeth mark. Mr Kelly had also outlined injuries to his head but the Garda said he didn't examine these.

There was damage to the driver's door and the Garda subsequently arranged for a Scenes of Crime officer to examine this.

The defendant was interviewed on February 18th who said he had woken up when they got back to Kelly's pub in Ballygawley.

He said there had been no issue with paying the taxi driver. The defendant said he was the first or second to pay the €12 to him. He denied assaulting Mr Kelly or kicking the driver's door.

Ms Spellman put it to the Garda that there was no mention of injuries or damage in his statement.

Garda Lynn replied that he wouldn't have asked for a scenes of crime examination if there wasn't evidence of criminal damage.

McCarrick, in evidence, said he had drank four bottles of alcohol that night and couldn't drink anymore as he was taking medication for a skin condition.

He said there had been an issue over money with one of the men handing over €50 and not getting change back.

He recalled waking two of the passengers before getting out himself. Mr McSharry was the last person out.

McCarrick denied assaulting Mr Kelly or kicking the taxi.

The next morning he went over with Mr McCormack to bring back the keys and Mr Kelly was happy to take a lift with them back to get his taxi.

Mr Kelly was talking about how he had lost four hours work that night and the defendant said he told him that he would sort this out.

"I rang him once or twice after that but I got no reply and that was the end of that," said McCarrick. He said he wasn't guilty of anything but that he didn't want any hassle over it.

Judge Grainne O'Neill said there was clearly a vast difference in the evidence given by Mr Kelly and the defendatn.

However, Mr Kelly's evidence was supported by Garda Lynn and the injuries outlined were consistent with what was outlined as was the damage and there was an invoice before the court within a month of the incident. The Judge said she was satisfied to convict the defendant on both charges.

Ms Spellman pleaded that the defendant was working since he was 18 in the transport business and that he came from a very respectable, hardworking family from the the area.

He also helped out on the family farm.

Judge O'Neill said if compensation was paid for the damage this would be a mitigating factor and the matter was put back for the defendant to consider this. Upon resumption, Ms Spellman said this would be done but he'd need time.

The case was put back to June 8th for payment of €1,250 and if this was done a €200 fine would be imposed on the damage charge. If not, a three month jail term would apply. The assault charge was marked as taken into consideration.

Sligo Champion

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