Taxi driver unable to work at night after he was robbed at knife-point

By Sonya Mclean

A taxi driver has indicated that he has been unable to work at night after he was robbed at knife-point while working in Dublin last year, reports Sonya McLean.

The man’s victim impact statement was read into the record during the sentence hearing of 19-year-old John Gallagher at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Criminal Courts of Justice

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

Gallagher was jailed for three years, two weeks ago, for two similar robberies during which he also used a knife to threaten another taxi driver and staff at a chemist.

On Wednesday, Judge Martin Nolan jailed Gallagher for an additional 21 months after he addressed Gallagher directly and told him: “You terrified this man. He has difficulty working at night because of it.”

“He is still left with the mental scars of what you did to him. You put a knife to a man’s throat,” the judge continued.

He accepted that Gallagher had expressed deep remorse and shame for his behaviour and had written a letter of apology to the victim, but he said because of the seriousness of the robbery he had to serve extra time in prison on top of the three-year term Judge Nolan imposed earlier this month.

Judge Nolan sentenced Gallagher to three years consecutive to the three-year term he imposed previously but suspended the final 15 months of the sentence on strict conditions.

Gallagher, of Glenshane Place, Tallaght, pleaded guilty to robbery of €200 and a mobile phone from Nitesh Bhagat and production of a knife in Tallaght on October 20, 2018. He has previous convictions for road traffic offences.

He previously pleaded guilty to the robberies in Tallaght on May 22, 2018 and October 19, 2018 respectively.

On Wednesday Garda Brian O’Reilly told Aideen Collard BL, prosecuting, that Mr Bhagat picked up Gallagher from St James’s Hospital on October 20 last year and after a short time he sat behind the taxi driver, put a knife to his throat and demanded his money and phone.

Mr Bhagat grabbed the knife to defend himself and was left with “a nick” on his hand and neck. He didn’t get any medical treatment.

Gallagher ran off and Mr Bhagat tried to chase him but he got away. Garda O’Reilly said Gallagher was identified by using footage from the dash cam on Mr Bhagat ‘s car and circulating CCTV footage from James’s Hospital earlier that night.

Gallagher later came to the garda station himself telling officers that he wanted to “hand myself in”.

“I almost injured an innocent man. I owed money to drug dealers and they said they would shoot me in front of my kids unless I got their money,” Gallagher said.

He described his victim as “a honest man out making money for his kids”.

Ms Collard read Mr Bhagat’s victim impact statement into the record in which he outlined that he had €1,000 loss of earnings, in addition to the €200 and mobile phone Gallagher robbed from him.

He said he had bruises around his neck and “nicks” on his fingers, but he didn’t get medical help.

Mr Bhagat described it as “a life-threatening incident” that “mentally disturbed” him for a number of weeks leaving him unable to sleep.

He said he was now too afraid to work at night and his family didn’t like him working as a taxi driver because they were afraid that something similar may happen.

Garda O’Reilly agreed with defence barrister Sarah Jane O’Callaghan BL that Gallagher had “a deep sense of shame” over his behaviour and had a strong reaction when he saw that Mr Bhagat was in the court room.

Counsel said she had to discourage Gallagher from approaching the victim in court to apologise to him in person.

At the earlier sentence hearing Garda Darren Swan told Ms Collard that on the date in October the accused entered a taxi. When the taxi got to the destination at Greenhills, Tallaght Gallagher produced a knife and put it to the driver’s throat.

He told the taxi driver to hand over all his money. The taxi driver gave him cash and the accused ran out of the car.

In an interview with gardaí Gallagher said he was intoxicated and on drugs at the time.

He said he owed money and was told he would be shot in front of his children unless he paid money back.

The court heard that on May 22 last year Gallagher entered the Springfield Medicare Pharmacy in Tallaght and put a knife to the cashier’s throat. He demanded money and left the store after receiving €130 in cash.

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