Published Tuesday, 03 June 2014
The incident happened in May last year. (© UTV)
On Tuesday, Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland told Daryl Ritchie that while he may have changed his ways in the intervening year, the courts had emphasised in the past that those who attack taxi drivers, face an immediate, and justifiable custodial sentence.
The Crown Court judge said the courts had recognised and said that taxi drivers were particularly vulnerable, often at the whim of their passengers, while performing an essential service for the community, and it was up to the courts to see they are protected.
Ritchie, 19 and from Ballyfore Park, Newtownabbey, had admitted possessing the Taser, assaulting the taxi driver, making off without paying his fare on 25 May last year, and possessing a modest amount of cannabis recovered the following day by police.
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, who said he would get the cigarettes.
Ms McKay said that Ritchie, who was beside the driver, then began to open his door and 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 then ran off.
Police were able to trace Ritchie the following day to a flat in the Bendigo Street area and in a search uncovered the Taser, disguised as a mobile phone, and a small amount of cannabis resin.
Defence lawyer Taylor Campbell said that a remorseful and disgusted Ritchie accepted that using the Taser on the driver was a reckless and very nasty thing to do, but at the time he had been abusing substances, and had taken drugs and drink that night, and that his opportunist crime was committed within the context of alcohol and drug taking.
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, having turned his life about, and his back on his drug past.
Judge McFarland said that while Ritchie's crimes may have been opportunistic and unsophisticated in nature, and the fact he had reformed his life, such personal circumstances were of less consideration when determining the appropriate sentence in such cases.
© UTV News