Man who tried to choke taxi driver, 70, with seat belt jailed for a year

By Fiona Ferguson

A drunk Moldovan man who placed a seat belt around a taxi driver’s neck and tried to choke him as he drove down a slip road onto a motorway has been jailed for one year.

Mihail Coptu (46) jumped out of the car as it was still moving after the 70-year-old taxi driver managed to free himself. Gardai later restrained him as he walked near the motorway.

Coptu of Oak Drive, Royal Oak, Santry, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to endangerment and obstruction of a garda at the M1 motorway, Santry on March 17, 2016.

Generic image of taxis waiting at a taxi stand

Coptu has 23 previous convictions including criminal damage, road traffic and public order offences.

Judge Martin Nolan noted Coptu was drunk at the time and commented: “This is a country of freedom. You can drink as much as you want but what you can not do is break the criminal law.”

He said the offence was too serious for a non-custodial sentence and he imposed a one-year jail term.

Garda Gerard Mullarkey told Maddie Grant BL, prosecuting, that the taxi driver had picked up Coptu at an address in Santry at 9.20pm and was asked by two others to take him to Blanchardstown. Coptu sat in the back directly behind the driver.

As the taxi turned onto the slip road leading onto the M1 motorway, Coptu stood up. He grabbed the seat belt, placed it around the driver’s neck and tried to choke him. During the struggle, the taxi driver managed to free himself by pulling the seat belt over his head.

Coptu fell backwards, opened his door and exited the car as it was still moving down the slip road.

Gardai were alerted about a man walking on the road on the M1/M50 area. They located Coptu on the slip road. He appeared unsteady on his feet and disorientated.

Coptu had to be physically restrained and was placed into the back of a garda car. He kicked out at Gda Mullarkey’ s seat as he was driving the car to Ballymun garda station.

Coptu was initially unfit to be interviewed. He later said he had no memory of the events in the taxi or on the M50. He said he was surprised and couldn’t believe he had done such a stupid thing.

A victim impact statement which was handed into court described how the taxi driver, who had been in the business for 23 years, was out of work for three weeks after the incident and had the financial expense of installing a screen between him and the back of the taxi.

Gda Mullarkey agreed with Barry Ward BL, defending, that Coptu had not been in trouble since and was not an ongoing problem for the gardai.

Mr Ward told Judge Nolan that drink had been the genesis of this behaviour and submitted the offences were an aberration in terms of his client’s ordinary behaviour.

Counsel said Coptu was from Moldova and had been in Ireland for 11 years. He said he has a good work history but was out of work at present due to tuberculosis. Mr Ward said his client offered his apology and regretted what happened.

KEYWORDS: Court, Assault


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