A taxi driver, who stole thousands of euro from unsuspecting passengers after taking their bank cards, has failed in his legal bid to get his public service vehicle licence restored.
Patrick Lyons, 45, of Ventry Road, Cabra, in Dublin had been given a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence earlier this month.
It followed a litany of thefts from customers of approximately €4,300 which brought him before the district and circuit courts.
He had lodged an appeal against the revocation of his taxi licence by Garda Carriage Office Superintendent Tom Murphy that came before Dublin District Court today.
Lyons told the appeal he had been blamed and had to pay up due to a botched drug deal, and he was heavily abusing cocaine and alcohol at the time.
At times on the verge of tears, he begged Judge Michael Coghlan for another chance insisting he had changed and admitted, “I should not have done what I done (sic), I know that”.
Refusing the application, Judge Coghlan said a taxi licence was privilege not a right.
The public would be placed in danger given Lyons’s background and his friendship with “undesirable elements”, he ruled.
In evidence, Lyons said he had been driving a taxi since 2000 and before that he had worked in a meat factory.
The convicted thief told the court he had an adult son in college and a 13-year-old daughter to support and he paid maintenance.
Questioned by his barrister Niamh Barry, he claimed he fell into a depression and moved back in with his mother in 2017 after the end of a long-term relationship with his partner.
He was suffering from bad seizures and had to stay off work for six or seven months.
He claimed he did not leave his bedroom for two or three months and was on anti-depressants as he stayed at home watching television.
However, he began to go out drinking at a local pub to interact with people but he later started taking cocaine in the toilets.
He got addicted, he said, adding that the only reason he left his bedroom was to have interaction with people, “in the toilets doing cocaine”. “I ran up a small debt,” he said.
Lyons introduced friends to “the crew” and everyone was having a laugh, the court was told.
But six weeks later one of them told Lyons he had done a deal to buy “a load of cocaine, but the man done a legger with the cocaine and the money”.
He was blamed for introducing them to each other and was given a hiding, he said. He claimed he had to come up the money and was under pressure.
Lyons said, “they said they were going to damage to me if I did not pay”.
He claimed he cleared it, mostly with loans, and paid €10,000 at the start of this year. “I was afraid to make a complaint, I thought I’d be shot,” he said. He was beaten up on a number of times, he alleged.
“I was doing wrong things to get some of the money, I stole credit cards from people in my taxi and from watching people putting the PIN number in the card machine,” he said. He told the court about 10 passengers were affected.
He claimed the first time was by accident after a passenger left her card behind but he conceded, “the rest of them I did take on purpose”.
“I know some of them could have been stuck for money, I should not have done what I done but I was not in a right state of mind,” he said.
The court heard he had paid back his victims.
He has gone to counselling and drug treatment and has had a electronic tracker placed in his car, and he intended to get CCTV installed also, he said. He started using a notebook which he got signed when he returned lost property, he said.
Accepting he had a “chequered history”, he claimed he has not used cocaine in a year and a half and he has been off alcohol for five or six months. He also had other convictions for driving without insurance, drive-off fuel thefts, and failing to return a lost phone.
Cross-examined by the Garda Superintendent Murphy he agreed he had been placed in a position of trust and the crimes thefts were heinous.
He insisted he had changed and would not do it again.
But Judge Coghlan said, “I would want to see clear blue water for an extended period before re-considering. In the circumstances I must refuse the application.”