Central Criminal Court, Dublin
Two teenagers attacked and robbed a taxi driver outside a garda station, a court has heard.
Andrew Hillick (19) and Michael Matthews (19) broke the glass partition inside the taxi in order to attack the driver, punching him in the head and kicking him in the ribs.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the teenagers stole cash and a mobile phone from the taxi driver, who sustained a broken nose during the robbery.
Hillick, of Greenhills Court, Tallaght, and Matthews, of Abbey Park Green, Clane, Co Kildare, both pleaded guilty to assault causing harm and robbery at Belgard Road, Tallaght, on November 17, 2020. Both men have no previous convictions.
Garda Edward Curley told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that in the early hours of the morning on the date in question, the then 31-year-old taxi driver was on his way home when he decided to pick up the two teenagers after receiving a notification from the Free Now app.
Gda Curley said the taxi driver drove them to the Glenshane area of Tallaght, but was then told to drive to the main square. He did so, but was told that they would need to get money from an ATM.
When they arrived at an ATM, one of the teenagers got out of the car and attempted to open the locked driver door. The driver felt threatened and after the teenager returned to the car, he made the decision to drive towards a nearby garda station.
Hillick and Matthews began banging on the glass partition in the taxi, hitting it so aggressively that they broke it in seconds. They began hitting the driver to the face and head as he stopped outside the garda station.
The driver felt something hit him on the head and saw blood on his shirt. His door opened and both accused began punching and kicking him in the ribs while screaming at him to get out of the car.
He felt something like a blade cutting him as the assault continued and his glasses were damaged. He handed over €60 in cash and his phone to the two teenagers before they fled the scene.
The driver used his car's horn to get the attention of gardaí inside the station. Both accused were arrested nearby shortly thereafter, with Matthews in possession of a broken bottle upon his arrest.
Gda Curley agreed with Oisin Clarke BL, defending Hillick, that his client would have been quite intoxicated when he dealt with him. He agreed Hillick told him he could not recall the incident.
Mr Clarke said that given the difficulties his client has faced, it is “amazing” he comes before the court with no previous convictions. He said his client currently lives in structured accommodation and a report before the court described him as being vulnerable and easily manipulated.
Counsel said his client has been addicted to drugs since he was aged 17 and his current goal is to reduce his drug use. He said his client is still using both heroin and crack cocaine, but he has reduced his usage of both.
He asked the court to take a chance on his client and submitted he will not have access to the same level of resources and engagement that he needs in custody.
Gda Curley agreed with Keith Spencer BL, defending Matthews, that his client was also intoxicated on the night. He agreed that Matthews admitted to assaulting the taxi driver in interview with gardaí.
Mr Spencer said his client was born into an environment of parental neglect and domestic abuse, leading him to be placed in care at a very young age. He said his client was placed in foster care with his sister, but that they were separated when he was aged 13 due to his maladaptive behaviour.
Counsel said his client was someone for whom alcohol is “a very dangerous trigger for his maladapted behaviour”. He said client now has his own accommodation and is supported by the Peter McVerry Trust.
He said that custody at this point would be a retrograde step for his client. He acknowledged that ordinarily this offending would result in a custodial sentence, but urged leniency in this case.
Judge Orla Crowe said both accused have encountered “a significant amount of adversity in their very young lives”. She said they subjected the driver to “an awful experience”.
Judge Crowe said she would need time to consider the matter and remanded both accused on continuing bail to February 10, next.
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