Tuesday 20 March 2018

Taxi driver 'unwilling to get wet' after refusing to take Maia Dunphy because she had a buggy, court told

Maia Dunphy, pictured leaving the Four Courts after giving evidence in a District Court hearing.Pic: Collins Courts
Maia Dunphy, pictured leaving the Four Courts after giving evidence in a District Court hearing.Pic: Collins Courts

Tom Tuite

A DUBLIN taxi driver has been described in court as lazy and unwilling to get wet after he refused to take writer and television producer Maia Dunphy and her toddler in his car because she had a buggy.

The mum (41) and her toddler, aged two, had been caught in the pouring rain when she tried to hail Anthony Fannin’s taxi at a rank at St Stephen’s Green in Dublin on February 23 last year.

However, Dublin District Court heard Fannin, from Cappagh Road, Finglas, Dublin 11 told her the buggy would not fit into the boot of his Toyota Avensis saloon.

The case went to a full court hearing on Monday after he had refused to accept an €80 fixed penalty notice.

Taxi Driver, Anthony Fannin from Cappagh Road, Dublin pictured leaving court today Pic: Collins Courts
Taxi Driver, Anthony Fannin from Cappagh Road, Dublin pictured leaving court today Pic: Collins Courts

He was prosecuted by the National Transport Authority (NTA) on a charge of refusing to carry a passenger which can result in a maximum €2,500 fine. He had pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The 41-year TV presenter, who also appeared in the hit RTÉ reality series Dancing With The Stars, told the court she became angry with Fannin and reported him to the NTA, Judge John Brennan was told.

Former mechanic Fannin who has been a taxi driver for 25 years and hoped to retire next year claimed he was concerned her buggy along with her shopping would not fit in the boot of his car.

Judge Brennan found him guilty but noted he was a man of mature years and had no prior convictions. He told the taxi driver that if he donated €250 to the Irish Down Syndrome Sporting Organisation and paid €150 toward prosecution costs the case would be struck out, meaning he would be spared a recorded criminal conviction.

Adjourning the case until May, the judge warned Fannin that otherwise he would face a conviction with a €500 fine along with an order to pay €400 toward the NTA’s legal costs.

Ms Dunphy, who is married to comedian Johnny Vegas, gave evidence about her 30-second interaction with the driver. It had been raining heavily and she had the buggy with her child and was also carrying a bag and a box. She had gestured toward his boot but, she alleged, he didn’t get out of his car.

The court heard she left saying “don’t bother” after he refused and recommended another taxi with more room.

NTA inspector Noel McNally told the court that Fannin’s type of car was popular in the taxi industry because it was a family saloon.

He took the report from Ms Dunphy and said he also questioned Fannin who told him that the buggy had a top that had to be removed and would not have fit in the boot. Mr Fannin told the NTA official “I was a disgrace and this was a joke”, the court was told.

The NTA official met Ms Dunphy and carried out a test to prove her foldable buggy would have fit in the boot of an Avensis and that there was “ample room”. Photos of his demonstration were handed in to the judge.

Ms Dunphy also said that it could fit in the boot of her mother’s Nissan Micra.

In cross-examination with defence counsel Fiona Pekaar it was put to the NTA official that Fannin had not wanted to put her to the bother of having to dismantle her buggy. Mr McNally said that the driver had shown no willingness to do it and was a “lazy driver unwilling to get wet to provide a public service that he was duly obliged to”.

In evidence, Fannin accepted the buggy would have fit in the boot but there would not have been room for her shopping as well.

He told prosecution solicitor Jason Teahan he didn’t want her box in the seating area in case there was an accident. The prosecution solicitor put it to him he had changed his story from the version in his interview with the NTA inspector.

The driver said he got out to find her a hatchback taxi but she said “don’t bother” and left.

He said he had experience of loading buggies and went out in all weather including the recent snow storm.

His barrister argued that a taxi driver can refuse to take a passenger if there was too much baggage or that it could damage the vehicle.

Describing it as an “unfortunate case”, the judge found him guilty and noted that Ms Dunphy had become very angry so much so she made a complaint to the taxi authority. He was satisfied that it was "a lazy driver unwilling to get wet to and not willing to provide a service he was obliged to provide."

Ms Dunphy did not seek witness expenses.

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