Belfast Telegraph

Dublin man jailed for brutal attack on Belfast cabbie

By John Cassidy

A senior judge has warned that the courts will protect taxi drivers from hijacking and attack.

David McFarland was speaking as he jailed a man for his involvement in a brutal assault and hijacking six years ago.

Barney McGinley (24), of Castle Drive, Dublin, was told he would spend 12 months in custody followed by a further 12 months on licence after he pleaded guilty to hijacking a taxi and common assault.

Charges of stealing a bottle of wine from a restaurant and criminal damage to the taxi were left on the books "in the usual terms''.

Belfast Crown Court heard how a taxi driver picked up McGinley, his uncle and another male in the city centre at 12.15am on November 15, 2011.

Prosecution barrister Philip Henry said the cabbie was told to drive out to the Malone Road and then directed down New Forge Lane. He said that en route he had felt "scared'' of his passengers, one of whom was drinking from a bottle of wine in the rear of his Mercedes vehicle.

The court heard that the driver was directed to a "less populated part of New Forge Lane'', where he was told to stop, after which the front seat passenger, McGinley's uncle, reached over to try and grab the keys before pushing the driver out of the door.

Mr Henry said the taximan tried to run away and made a 999 call to police telling them what had happened and his location, saying: "These are big guys. You will need more than one police car to take them.''

The judge heard that the three males later caught up with him and pulled him to the ground, where he was kicked and punched to his upper body and face.

Police soon arrived on the scene to find the taxi's engine running and the vehicle empty. Officers called in the PSNI's dog section along with an armed response vehicle for back-up.

All three males were found hiding nearby in undergrowth and were arrested.

During police interview, McGinley said he couldn't remember what happened at New Forge Lane because he had been intoxicated.

They were subsequently charged over the incident, but the court heard they were later released on bail and skipped the jurisdiction to the Republic.

McGinley was later arrested by gardai over the robbery of a veterinary practice in December 2014, and was jailed for three years.

In April this year, he was extradited to Northern Ireland after he was formally arrested by gardai on foot of a European Extradition Warrant issued by the PSNI.

The prosecution counsel said there was no victim impact statement from the taxi driver because he was suffering from a terminal illness unrelated to the hijacking.

He told the court that there were a number of aggravating factors.

These included the fact that there were three males involved in the hijacking and assault, that the incident took place at night and that the taxi driver was vulnerable.

A defence barrister said McGinley was now "remorseful and had victim empathy'', adding that as a result of his involvement in this incident, his wife had separated from him and he had been unable to see his children.

Passing sentence, Belfast Recorder Judge McFarland issued a stern warning to future offenders.

"Taxi drivers will receive the support of the courts from anyone who attempts to hijack their vehicles or assault them, and they will receive severe punishment," he said.

"Taxi drivers provide a vital service to the community and it is important that they are protected from those who assault and try to take their vehicle from them, and they will receive the appropriate sentence.''

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