Ali El Taweel (24) had abruptly stopped using cannabis, which it was accepted then led to an episode of psychosis.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that El Taweel left a car park without paying and got into a series of minor accidents across Dublin city centre, before finally crashing into a truck and a taxi on the south quays.
El Taweel, with an address at Abbey Park View, Clane, Co Kildare, pleaded guilty to two counts of endangerment at locations in Dublin city centre on April 24, 2018.
He also pleaded guilty to driving with no insurance, criminal damage and refusing to provide a specimen of urine or blood, also at locations in Dublin city centre on the same date. He has no previous convictions.
Passing sentence on Tuesday, Judge Melanie Greally said El Taweel’s “sequence of driving was prolonged and extremely dangerous and ultimately the inevitable occurred”, referring to the fact that he collided with a taxi which was carrying a female passenger.
The judge noted from a victim impact statement that this taxi driver suffered both physical injuries and his mental health has been affected by the incident.
She said “the background to the commission of the offence had been sent out in a large body of material” including a psychiatric report and “a comprehensive letter from his father”.
The letter stated that El Taweel had developed a dependency to cannabis in the years before the incident and that “a very abrupt withdrawal” from the drug brought on a psychosis.
“He felt in some way he needed to prove himself and did so in a highly distorted and manifestly dangerous manner,” Judge Greally said before she noted that El Taweel has since engaged with mental health services. He is now stable on medication and no longer abuses cannabis.
The judge also accepted that El Taweel has since married and has a young son and a step-child, has completed a law degree and a probation report “has deemed him to be at a low risk of re-offending”.
“If he continues to be compliant with his medication and continues to abstain from use of cannabis, there is no reason to believe there would be a repetition of this kind of behaviour,” Judge Greally said after noting that El Taweel has the full support of both his parents and his wife.
“In normal circumstances the driving involved and the number of people exposed to danger and those who were in fact injured would warrant a custodial sentence,” the judge said but added that there were “very particular considerations at play in this case” which allowed her to impose a suspended term.
She accepted it was “a once off incident” during a time of “severe mental health crisis”, before she imposed concurrent terms of four years in prison which she suspended in full on strict conditions, including that El Taweel remain compliant with his medication.
She disqualified him from driving for five years.
Judge Greally acknowledged that El Taweel had €5,000 in court to offer as a token of remorse to the victims and adjourned the case to January 20 next to allow for this issue to be dealt with.