Belfast Telegraph

Fare dodger attacked taxi driver with stun gun

By Michael Donnelly

A teenager who used a stun gun on a taxi driver while high on a cocktail of drink and drugs has been jailed for six months.

Daryl Ritchie (19) attacked the driver with the weapon, which was disguised as mobile phone, in May of last year to escape paying a fare.

Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland told the young man that while he may have changed his ways in the intervening year, the courts had emphasised in the past that those who attacked taxi drivers faced an immediate – and justiafible – custodial sentence.

The Crown Court judge said the courts had recognised that taxi drivers were particularly vulnerable, often at the whim of their passengers, while performing an essential service and it was up to the courts to see they are protected.

Ritchie, from Ballyfore Park, Newtownabbey, had admitted possessing the stun gun, assaulting the taxi driver, making off without paying his fare on May 25 last year, and possessing a modest amount of cannabis.

Prosecuting lawyer Kate McKay said Ritchie and another youth had ordered a taxi in Comber to take them to Belfast's Ormeau Road and during the journey the pair chatted about getting cigarettes.

On arrival in the city the driver was asked to stop by the back-seat passenger. Ms McKay said that Ritchie, who was beside the driver, then appeared to put his hand in his pocket as he asked the taximan the price of the fare. However, the driver said Ritchie then lunged at him and he felt an electric shock, before Ritchie ran off. Police were able to trace him the following day to a flat at Bendigo Street and in a search uncovered the stun gun.

Defence lawyer Taylor Campbell said that a remorseful and disgusted Ritchie accepted that using the stun gun on the driver was a reckless and nasty thing to do, but at the time he had been abusing substances, and had taken drugs and drink that night.

Mr Campbell said that around this time Ritchie was a young man who was off the rails, but was now firmly back on the rails.

Judge McFarland said that while Ritchie had reformed his life, this was of less consideration when determining the appropriate sentence in such cases.

FACTFILE

  • A stun gun is an electroshock weapon that uses an electrical current on its target. It disrupts voluntary control of muscles causing "neuromuscular incapacitation".
  • They are used by the PSNI to subdue fleeing or potentially dangerous people. They are otherwise illegal in Northern Ireland. Ritchie used a particular type of stun gun that was disguised as a mobile phone.

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