Thursday, July 14, 2022

Fiona Ferguson

A judge has said there must be deterrents in relation to stealing from taxi drivers and others providing public services and they cannot be seen as an easy target.

Judge Pauline Codd was speaking at the sentencing of Michael Collins (32) for the robbery at knifepoint of two taxi drivers in Dublin, who outlined in their victim impact statements how they have been and continue to be financially and psychologically impacted by the offences in April and May 2021.

Collins was finally arrested on May 13th, 2021 after gardaí spotted him walking down the street in Blanchardstown with a TV in a trolley. He told them he had found it in a bush. Gardaí also recovered a stolen credit card when they searched him. He has been in custody since that date.

Collins, of Belgree Square, Tyrrelstown, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbery of the taxi drivers at locations in the city on dates in April and May 2021.

He also pleaded guilty to four counts of theft, handling stolen property and criminal damage.

Collins has 43 previous convictions for offences including robberies and burglaries.

Judge Codd said this was criminality of an extensive nature but, apart from the robberies, most were at the lower end of the range. She said the robberies were different and far more serious, noting the aggravating factor of the use of a knife.

Eight-year sentence

She said taxis were a public service and there had to be a deterrent in relation to stealing from them.

“People who are interfacing with the public have to be protected by the courts,” she said. “They cannot be seen as an easy target.”

She noted it had a very serious effect on both drivers and it was aggravating that they had been providing a public service at the time.

She took into account Collins’ personal circumstances, many challenges and expression of remorse.

Judge Codd imposed an eight-year sentence with the final year suspended on strict conditions.

Garda Dean Griffin told John Gallagher BL, prosecuting, that Collins robbed two taxi drivers while armed with a knife. The first was in Mulhuddart on April 14th, 2021 and the second was in Tyrrelstown on May 12th, 2021.

The first taxi driver said that after bringing a man, woman and baby to their requested destination, the man, Collins, had demanded money or said he would “cut” him. He took the driver’s mobile phone and ran when the woman with him shouted “gardaí.”

The second taxi driver described how Collins had robbed him while he was waiting for a woman to return with his fare. Collins had approached his door armed with knife, put it to his Adams apple and demanded money, threatening to stab him. Collins got €120 in cash.

On edge

Both taxi drivers gave victim impact statements outlining how they had taken time off work after the robberies, suffered financial loss and how it had continued to affect how they now worked at night, in particular areas or with male passengers.

The men described the fear they had felt during the robberies and how they remain on edge.

The first taxi driver said the phone that was taken from him contained photos of sentimental value and the second driver outlined how he now no longer takes cash customers, only account work.

The remaining counts on the indictment involve Collins walking out of shops with items without paying for them, including groceries, perfume, a chain saw and strimmers.

Aidan McCarthy BL, defending, handed in a letter from Collins’ mother and a note of apology from Collins indicating his remorse.

Mr McCarthy said Collins had suffered a number of tragedies involving family members in his life. He said Collins’ father had been a “violent and abusive” alcoholic who insisted he leave school at the age of 12. His mother relied on him to help raise the rest of the family.

Counsel said unfortunately Collins began abusing cannabis, tablets and on occasion cocaine. He said he has detoxed in custody and is now free of narcotics. Collins hopes to get assistance with reading and writing while serving his sentence. He is remorseful for his actions.

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