Ex-taxi driver given six months for assault on passenger

Taxi driving is an honourable profession and the court expects drivers to behave in a respectable manner, said a district court judge before imposing a six month sentence on a man who demanded more money from a passenger, despite setting a fixed fare, and then proceeded to viciously punch and kick him, leaving the wounded man on the side of a dark dangerous country road.

Uyi Idemudia (42 ) with an address at 98 Cluain Riocaird, Headford Road, was summoned to appear before Galway District Court on Monday where he denied the charge of assault at Shanbally, Corrandulla, on November 4, 2011.

Stephen Finn gave evidence that he was standing outside Supermac’s in Eyre Square and had plans to go to his girlfriend’s house in Corrandulla. A taxi pulled up and the driver asked for upfront fixed payment of €15. The taxi drove on but before reaching the destination the driver began asking for more money. Mr Finn refused and reminded the driver that he had already paid €20 and that the agreed fare had been €15. The taxi stopped again and the driver continued to demand more money, threatening to bring Mr Finn to the guards. Near the Curragh Line the taxi stopped, the driver unclipped Mr Finn’s seat belt and got out of the car before coming around to the passenger side. Mr Finn was then violently pulled out of the vehicle, punched in the face, and kicked several times as he lay on the ground. Mr Finn said that he had been left in a wounded state on a dark unlit road and that he had to roll himself into a ditch to get to safety. He then walked a mile and a half to his girlfriend’s house where he phoned the gardai. The court then heard that Mr Finn had been in Galway city at a later date when he saw the same car, a grey Passat, at the taxi ranks. He said he took down the full registration and that he immediately recognised the driver.

Denies doing a runner

Defence solicitor Tomas McHale said his client was adamant he had put on the meter and that the fare had been €32. Mr McHale then said Mr Finn had pulled up the handbrake and got out of the car when it came to a stop. He then said Mr Finn had hit Idemudia first and that his client hit back in self defence.

Mr Finn denied this stating: “I wouldn’t do a runner. To pull the handbrake at 80/100kmph, that’s an absolute joke. He slammed on the brakes, opens my seatbelt, comes over to my side, punches me in the face, and kicks me seven to eight times when I’m on the ground.”

Garda Sean Sheehy gave evidence that Mr Finn had been in an “upset state” and had a “cut to the inside of his lip”. He added that the area where the assault took place was an 100kmph zone with no lighting and that it would be “extremely dangerous”. The court heard that on November 11, 2011, Garda Sheehy observed Idemudia at the taxi rank, got his details, and invited him to make a statement. When the allegation was put to him Idemudia had become “quite aggravated and defensive”.

Giving evidence under oath Idemudia, a Nigerian national, told the court that on November 4 he had been at the rank and that it was Mr Finn who approached him. He put on the meter and on the way was asked to pick up another person who got out again a short time later and handed over €5. He said that as the car approached Corrandulla Mr Finn told him to stop and when asked to pay the balance of the fare he refused. “He argued several times that it was €15 and he paid me. He tried to do something, to pull the handbrake, and I told him to give me the money. I said I don’t want an argument, that I would take him back to where I picked him up... He pulled my handbrake and opened the door, I managed to control the car. He punched me and I punched him back,” said Mr Idemudia.

“Are you asking us to believe that he [Mr Finn] pulled the handbrake which would be almost suicidal, that wouldn’t happen. If you had difficulties with a passenger, which this court hears often, you should have made a complaint. Not only did you not do that but you say you were assaulted. You have no credibility,” said Judge Fahy who was then told that Idemudia has previous convictions and is currently serving 18 months in jail for numerous thefts. He also has previous convictions for criminal damage in and handling stolen property for which he received a fine and a five year disqualification from driving in September of this year.

Disqualified from driving

“This is very serious. He tried to malign this man’s good name. Taxi driving is an honourable profession and the court expects drivers to behave in a respectable way to fee paying passengers. He is not a suitable person,” said Judge Fahy who then convicted Idemudia of assault and sentenced him to six months in jail to be served on lawful termination of the sentence currently being served. He was also disqualified from driving for five years. Leave to appeal was granted.

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