A district court judge has described as “outrageous” the words used by an irate taxi driver who after being told to move on from an illegal parking space shouted at a garda that it was a pity more officers were not shot in an incident, only three days earlier, when a Garda sergeant was murdered in Dundalk.
Judge Mary Fahy made the comment in the case of Michael Rabbitte (45 ) with an address at 10 Westbury, Mayfield, Claremorris, who had initially pleaded guilty to threatening and abusive behaviour on January 28, 2013, when he appeared at Galway District Court on Monday. However, following Garda Shane Lambe’s evidence, Rabbitte admitted using offensive words but strenuously denied having made that particular comment.
Giving evidence Garda Lambe said that at 2.35am he had been moving on taxis which had been parked illegally in the Cross Street area. When Rabbitte was told to move on he became irate and starting cursing at Garda Lambe, asking where the gardai were a few minutes beforehand when there was a drunk male on the street.
Rabbitte eventually began moving off in the direction of Bridge Street, but as he was doing so his window was down and Garda Lambe heard him shouting back “it is a pity a lot more of you weren’t shot the other night”. Garda Lambe explained that this was in reference to an incident in Dundalk only three days earlier when Sgt Adrian Donohoe was shot dead during a robbery.
Rabbitte gave evidence that he had been waiting for a fare outside the Front Door pub, that he had been working 12 hours but had only earned €70, and admitted he did get annoyed when Garda Lambe said he would get a ticket.
“I didn’t know about the garda being shot. I swore at him as I pulled out. He said he would get the taxi regulator. I said I didn’t care if I was taken out and shot. I made some reference like that,” he said.
While being questioned by Inspector Ernie Whyte, Rabbitte continued to deny that he made this comment. He further explained that he had only been back in the country two days after being in England for a family bereavement.
“The whole country was shocked at what happened to the guard who was shot in cold blood while on duty. I hear every day about taxi drivers being irate but this is the first time I have heard anything like this.
“Driving a taxi, whether the fares are going good or bad, you can’t abuse someone for doing their job. The words you said were so outrageous, so unwarranted, and totally unacceptable,” said Judge Fahy, before convicting Rabbitte and imposing a three month jail sentence which was suspended for 12 months on condition that he enter into his own bond of €1,200 to be of good behaviour. He was also fined €300 with three months to pay.
Judge Fahy noted that she had been “very tempted” to impose a disqualification from driving for six months since “he eventually didn’t plead guilty”. However, after consideration she rescinded the disqualification so that the defendant’s livelihood would not be adversely affected. Leave to appeal was granted.