A judge has ruled that a Dublin cab driver, who was successfully prosecuted for cocaine dealing from his car, can have his taxi licence restored and carry on working.
An action brought by taxi driver Barry Burns (43) of Bath Road, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, was opposed by Garda Superintendent Thomas Murphy of the Dublin region traffic department which includes the carriage office.
The superintendent said tests last year showed Mr Burns’s drug use was “off the scale” and put it to him that he was “a danger to the public”.
However, Burns described that claim as “pure vendetta” and insisted he had stayed off drugs since he was prosecuted in court in 2016 for drugs offences.
Burns had been stripped of his taxi licence following that prosecution but was then allowed hold on to it and work provisionally, pending the outcome of his appeal heard by Judge Deirdre Gearty at Dublin District Court.
Giving her ruling today she said she was restoring his licence.
Barrister Patrick Jackson (instructed by solicitor Fiona D’Arcy) told Judge Gearty that in February 2015, Burns was stopped in a car in possession of €70 worth of cocaine.
On a date in February the following year, undercover gardai made four calls to his phone and later that day Burns provided them with seven deals of cocaine worth about €550, counsel said.
In December 2016, the case came before Judge Lindsay at Swords District Court.
He was prosecuted for possessing drugs for his own use as a result of the first incident but the second incident led to a more serious charge for having cocaine for sale or supply. He pleaded guilty to the charges from the outset.
Mr Jackson said that at the time father-of-three Burns had been going through family difficulties and began using drugs.
Those charges were struck out and he was spared a criminal conviction as a well as a sentence after he had gone to counselling, provided blood and urine samples to show he was off drugs and he also donated €1,000 to charity.
Garda Superintendent Murphy told Judge Gearty that Mr Burns was using his taxi at the time and there was a “tick list” amounting to several thousand Euro owed to him by customers.
Philip Kavanagh of the Tacsai Tiomani na hEireann union gave evidence in the appeal and told the court he had known Burns about 10 years and was comfortable with him remaining a taxi driver.
He said at the time Burns had told him of his difficulties but since then he has perked up and seems be trying to get on with his life.
Anthony Finlay, another taxi driver, said Burns was a close friend and deserved a second chance. He said he has a large clientele of business people and whenever he cannot collect one of them the only person he could rely on was Burns. He said his friend never let him down and passengers had nothing but compliments for him.
He said Burns had gone through difficulties and psychologically he was incredibly low but he was now back to his old self and had completely changed his life around.
Counsel provided the court with documents showing that tests proved his client has stopped taking drugs.
Mr Burns told the court he had split with his former partner and he paid half the mortgage in the family home where he no longer resides. He also paid educational and medical expenses.
He said at the time of the incidents he had a lot of pressures and owed €3,500 in legal fees and was “up to my eyes”. He also agreed with counsel that he was suffering from anxiety.
He said that he began using cocaine and was “not in a good place”. He told Judge Gearty he was stupid and had let his family down.
Since the prosecution he continued to go to drug testing, he said. All 106 urine samples had been negative, he said.
Cross-examined by Garda Superintendent Murphy, it was put to him that hair follicle tests in 2017, which covered 12-month periods, showed he tested positive for drug use and one was “off the scale”.
However, the taxi driver claimed that was because drugs remained in his system a long time and he denied continued drug use. He called the Garda objection to his licence a "pure vendetta" and said superintendent wanted to take away his livelihood.
The court heard the latest follicle drug test in January was negative and that also covered the previous 12-month period.
Burns also told the court he had not come to Garda attention since and rejected claims that it would be unsafe for members of the public to use his taxi. He also said there were other people driving taxis who had criminal convictions.