A taxi driver was convicted of punching a female passenger in the jaw as the judge dismissed his allegations that he had been racially abused.
Charles Ibebugwu, aged 40, of 24 Coolmore Gardens, Shanbally, Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, was ordered to do 200 hours or community service instead of three months in prison for assaulting Cathy Brogan on May 31 2014.
Judge Olann Kelleher said that when Garda Aisling Murphy and Sergeant Pat Lingane arrived at the scene, there was no complaint by Ibebugwu of having been racially abused. Such an allegation was not made until he subsequently gave a statement and again in court.
Ibebugwu did not have his shirt torn when gardaí met him at the scene. However, before they left, the front of his t-shirt was torn. Inspector Eileen Foster suggested he had torn it himself. The defendant denied tearing his shirt to make it look like he had been the one assaulted.
Judge Olann Kelleher said: “I am totally satisfied there was no allegation on the night of racist comments. I do not believe these words were spoken at all.”
The accused claimed he was racially abused as a “black monkey” and told to go back to his own country. In his statement, he said Ms Brogan made the racist comment. Ms Brogan denied it and said she found it very upsetting to be accused of making racist comments as it was something she would never do.
When Ibebugwu came to give evidence yesterday in Cork District Court he said it was Brendan Cullinane — Ms Brogan’s then boyfriend, now husband — who made the comment. He also denied saying any such thing.
The couple got into the taxi after being out socialising. Each of them said they had about eight drinks and got the taxi from Grand Parade to Innishannon. The journey in the defendant’s taxi only got as far as Cork University Hospital.
Mr Cullinane said he asked the driver what way he was going when he took the third exit at Wilton roundabout rather than the second one which they felt would have been more direct.
Both of them said the driver told them to get out of the car as soon as the route was queried. They said that even though he told them to get out he prevented them from walking away until the €11 of the fare to that point was paid. They felt they should not pay as they had been put out of the car.
“He hit me into the right side of my jaw with a closed fist. Then he started saying, oh my God, oh my God, I’m sorry,” Ms Brogan said.
Ibebugwu, who was never in trouble before, was convicted of that assault. A charge of assaulting Mr Cullinane was dismissed.
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