A judge has said there must be deterrents to theft from taxi drivers and other public service providers and they cannot be seen as an easy target.
Judge Pauline Codd was speaking during the sentencing of Michael Collins (32) for the robbery at knifepoint of two taxi drivers in Dublin, who described in their victim impact statements how they were and continue to be financially and psychologically affected by the offenses in April. and May 2021.
Collins was eventually arrested on May 13, 2021 after Gardaí spotted him walking down the street in Blanchardstown with a television in a cart. He told them he found it in a bush. Gardaí also recovered a stolen credit card when they searched it. He has been detained since that date.
Collins, of Belgree Square, Tyrrelstown, pleaded guilty in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to theft from taxi drivers at locations in the city on dates in April and May 2021.
He also pleaded guilty to four counts of theft, receiving possession and criminal damage.
Collins has 43 prior convictions for offenses including robbery and burglary.
Judge Codd said it was serious crime but, aside from thefts, most were on the lower end of the range. She said the robberies were different and much more serious, noting the aggravating factor of using a knife.
She said taxis were a public service and there had to be a deterrent to stealing them.
“People who interact with the public must be protected by the courts,” she said. “They cannot be considered an easy target.”
She noted that this had a very serious effect on the two drivers and that it was aggravating that they were providing a public service at the time.
She took into account Collins’ personal circumstances, his many challenges, and an expression of remorse.
Judge Codd imposed an eight-year sentence with the final year suspended under strict conditions.
Garda Dean Griffin told prosecuting John Gallagher BL that Collins robbed two taxi drivers while armed with a knife. The first was in Mulhuddart on April 14, 2021 and the second in Tyrrelstown on May 12, 2021.
The first taxi driver said that after taking a man, woman and baby to their requested destination, the man, Collins, demanded money or said he would “cut it off”. He took the driver’s mobile phone and ran when the woman accompanying him shouted “gardaí”.
The second taxi driver described how Collins robbed him as he waited for a woman to return with his fare. Collins had approached his door armed with a knife, put it on his Adam’s apple and demanded money, threatening to stab him. Collins received €120 in cash.
On the edge
Both taxi drivers gave victim impact statements describing how they had missed work after the robberies, suffered financial loss and how it continued to affect the way they worked at night, in particular areas or with male passengers.
The men described the fear they felt during the robberies and how they remain nervous.
The first taxi driver said the phone taken from him contained photos of sentimental value and the second taxi driver explained that he no longer takes customers in cash, only accounts.
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The other counts in the indictment involve Collins walking out of stores with items without paying for them, including groceries, perfume, a chainsaw and brush cutters.
Aidan McCarthy BL, defending, delivered a letter from Collins’ mother and an apology note from Collins stating his remorse.
Mr McCarthy said Collins had suffered a number of tragedies involving family members in his life. He said Collins’ father was a ‘violent and abusive’ alcoholic who insisted he quit school when he was 12. His mother relied on him to help raise the rest of the family.
The lawyer said that unfortunately Collins started abusing cannabis, tablets and sometimes cocaine. He said he had detoxified in custody and was drug free. Collins hopes to get help with reading and writing while he serves his sentence. He feels remorse for his actions.