‘What if I’d lost control and crossed in path of another car?’
A father-of-one who grabbed a taxi driver in a headlock from the back seat of his car has escaped conviction after paying the driver compensation and giving money to charity.
Michael Lawrence (24), from Balrothery in north Co Dublin, pleaded guilty to assaulting taxi driver Peter McLoughlin on November 18, 2018.
The case was heard before Judge Dermot Dempsey at Swords District Court.
Garda Sarah McDermott, from Balbriggan Garda Station, gave evidence that Lawrence had been in Tallaght with friends on the day of the incident having got a lift there.
She said Lawrence had told gardai afterwards that he does not usually drink but did so on this occasion, and that he had temporarily split up with his partner at the time.
Garda McDermott indicated that Lawrence was under some stress at that period in his life as he and his partner had lost a baby through miscarriage.
She added that Lawrence had got the taxi from Tallaght to Balrothery and a dispute arose over the €80 fare when he arrived at his destination.
Lawrence had become aggressive and grabbed Mr McLoughlin in a headlock from the back seat of the car.
Mr McLoughlin had then called gardai and Lawrence stayed at the scene of the incident until they arrived.
Garda McDermott said that when she arrived Lawrence was sitting on a wall.
"He was crying and intoxicated. He had given the taxi driver €50 and gave me the extra €30 that was owed. He later made a caution statement," she said.
Mr Lawrence's solicitor said her client was pleading guilty and was ashamed of being in court over his actions.
She said Lawrence was a 24-year-old father-of-one and his partner was expecting a baby.
"He is genuinely remorseful and unlikely to appear before the courts again," she said.
She added that her client had brought €300 to court as compensation.
"Taxi drivers have a tough enough time without gurriers attacking them," said judge Dempsey.
He struck out the case after Lawrence paid €150 to the taxi driver and €150 was made as a donation to Autism Ireland.
After the case was finalised, Mr McLoughlin, from Walkinstown, said taxi drivers had a hard time and attacks were seemingly becoming more common.
"My car was moving at the time he grabbed me. What if I had lost control and hit anyone on the path or crossed to the other side of the road into an oncoming car?" he said.
"I've had people do runners on me before and not pay their fare, but this was the first time I was attacked, and all I could think about was my two kids, and what would they think if anything bad happened.
"It took me by surprise," Mr McLoughlin added.
"There's not enough gardai on the roads.
"I've had situations before where I've had to wait an hour for gardai to arrive after they've being called."
"I know drivers recently who have had ropes put around their necks.
"More needs to be done to raise awareness of attacks on taxi drivers because this seems to be happening more often now.
"There needs to be stiffer penalties," he added.