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Taxi driver 'lucky' to avoid jail for working while banned from driving

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
There was a young woman passenger who thought it was a legitimate taxi sitting in the back seat when the car was stopped by gardai
There was a young woman passenger who thought it was a legitimate taxi sitting in the back seat when the car was stopped by gardai

A FORMER Dublin cabbie, who continued operating a taxi after he was banned from driving, is lucky he is not going to jail, a judge said today.

Trevor Johnson (38) of Gortmore Avenue in Finglas pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to charges under the Taxi Regulation Act for unlawfully operating a taxi while suspended, having no driving licence, no motor tax or insurance and not having a Public Service Vehicle licence.

Judge Grainne O'Neill heard that Johnson was arrested at 10.25pm on the night of March 4 at Bride St in Dublin 8. Garda Damien Duffy, who is attached to the Garda Traffic Corps, said that he stopped the '07-reg silver Skoda. There was a young woman passenger who thought it was a legitimate taxi sitting in the back seat.

The traffic garda said the car appeared to be a taxi and had a number on the roof and a corresponding number on a door panel but a window sticker which a taxi should have was missing.

Gda Duffy said Johnson had been a taxi driver until last year and the car had previously been registered as a taxi. Johnson told him from the outset that he was in dire financial circumstances.

Judge O'Neill asked if there was anything else at play in the case and the garda said there was not but he could understand why that assumption could be made. He said extensive enquiries were carried out and gardai had no reason to doubt that this was purely to assist the man's finances.

He had a previous conviction, last year, for driving without insurance which resulted in a two-year road ban. Defence solicitor Noelle Kenny said her client was €60,000 in arrears with his house repayments. He had bought the property in 2007 when he was working a plumber.

However, during the crash he lost that job and had to move home to his mother for whom he acts as a carer. She said he was in desperate financial need at the time of the incident.

He is attending counselling for depression and has a young child. He is nervous and has just got work again in the construction industry and wanted to get control of his life again, the defence lawyer said.

Judge O'Neill accepted he had financial difficulties at the time but she added so did others and he had broken a court order and was also carrying a passenger while uninsured. She said he had a right to be nervous and should thank his solicitor and a fair garda that he was not going to jail.

She fined him €600 and adjourned the case until May 25 for a probation report on his suitability to carry out 100 hours' community service in lieu of a three-month jail sentence.