An American who failed to pay for a taxi to Belfast International Airport before fleeing and driving dangerously in a hire car because he “thought he was being hi-jacked,” has been given a suspended jail term.
The man, who has been working in Northern Ireland, used his hire car to ram the taxi out of the way which was blocking him in.
Sean Davis (25), whose address was only given as Plymouth Road, New Jersey, was sentenced at Antrim Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
Davis had previously appeared in the dock from custody at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday and pleaded guilty to dangerous driving at Airport Road, Antrim; driving whilst unfit; failing to stop, remain and report an accident; and making off without paying a taxi fare.
He was remanded in custody on Monday but was then listed on the video link at Antrim Magistrates Court on Tuesday where he was sentenced and was given one month in jail, suspended for two years and banned from driving for two years.
He was also fined £300; ordered to pay £250 compensation to the taxi driver and also to pay the £10 he owed for the taxi fare.
A prosecutor told Coleraine Court on Monday that Davis had hailed a taxi from the Holiday Inn Express hotel in Antrim town to the airport but when the cab took him to the Maldron Hotel at the airport, the accused said he was going to get the fare.
Instead, he went to a hire car he had been using since being in Northern Ireland for work-related training, and then made off.
The prosecutor said the taxi driver knew Davis had been drinking and after seeing him attempting to leave he was concerned about him taking to the road in such a state and he also wanted his fare.
The prosecutor said the taxi driver had driven within three or four feet of the hire car to prevent it from leaving but Davis then reversed his car into the cab and revved his engine to push back the taxi before he escaped.
Police later found the hire car back at the Holiday Inn with the engine still running, and Davis in a room.
Defence barrister Michael Smith claimed at Monday’s court that Davis was so drunk that after he went to get money for the fare in the hire car he did not recognise the taxi driver who had come to the side of the vehicle.
Mr Smith added: “Because of his intoxicated state he didn’t recognise the taxi driver. He panicked and thought he was being hijacked and tried to get away from this person.”
The prosecutor said Davis is an American citizen and has been staying at the Holiday Inn in Antrim in relation to work-related training and is due to return home later in February.
At 12.50am on Sunday, he was collected from his hotel and taken to Belfast International Airport and taxi driver noted his passenger smelt of intoxicating liquour.
When asked for the £10 fare, the prosecutor said Davis said he needed to collect something from the hotel and came back and “threw a parking ticket” in the window of the taxi before stumbling towards a carpark.
The taxi driver called after him but got no response and Davis got into the driver’s seat of a hire car. Believing it was about to drive off, the cabbie drove close to the vehicle and got out and rapped the window of the hire car but Davis reversed into the taxi.
The taxi driver opened the door and told Davis to stop but he continued to rev the engine to push the taxi back.
The taxi man tried to take the key out of the ignition but it broke off.
The taxi driver returned to his car to call for help on his radio and sounded his horn to attract attention but Davis “forced” his way out of the carpark in the hire car and made off.
The prosecutor said Davis told police his car had been rammed and someone had stolen the keys.
Davis had an alcohol/breath reading of 71 with the legal limit being 35.
District Judge Liam McNally heard on Monday the taxi bumper and number plate were damaged along with scrapes and he remanded the defendant in custody.
Judge McNally told Davis: “You were unfit to drive a vehicle, you had failed to pay a taxi man his fare. The taxi man, quite properly, attempted to prevent you driving the vehicle and thereby endangering other people”.