A taxi driver who sexually assaulted a late night passenger after she passed out in his car has been jailed for four years.
The victim told gardaí she woke up to find Gerard Gunnery Snr (60) assaulting her. He then became aggressive and threw her out of the car, leaving her in a heap on the side of the road.
The accused, of Ellenfield Road, Whitehall, Dublin pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the woman in Dublin city on December 23rd, 2017. Evidence was originally heard in the case last November and Gunnery Snr was then remanded in custody.
On Friday Judge Karen O’Connor commended the courage of the injured party and noted her powerful victim impact statement which outlined the profound effect the offending had on her and how she continues to live with the “devastating” impact of the defendant’s behaviour.
She said the offending had been a massive breach of trust in his role as a taxi driver. Holders of public service vehicle licences had certain responsibilities and these had been breached, she said.
Judge O’Connor also said the woman had been taken advantage of when she was vulnerable. She noted when the victim questioned the taxi driver’s behaviour she was dragged from the vehicle and left on the side of the road but still managed to take a picture of his registration plate.
She took into account the defendant’s age, health, testimonials and previous good character.
She noted he was now a registered sex offender and that incarceration would be particularly difficult for someone of his age in these times with lack of visitation rights but said a custodial sentence could not be avoided.
Judge O’Connor imposed a four and a half year sentence with the final six months suspended.
At the hearing last November the victim addressed the court and said that a regular girls’ night out in town turned into a nightmare when she woke up in the front seat of the taxi parked outside her home.
Neighbours later told gardaí they heard a woman shouting “get off me” and “stop, don’t touch me” and saw the driver pulling the woman out of the taxi. She was screaming that her leg was stuck under the taxi and he came out and “threw her out of the way”.
She was found on the ground crying and screaming. The court heard she suffered bruising to her elbows, kneecaps and her jaw.
Gunnery Snr made a statement to gardaí claiming that the woman had told him to “go for it” and that he wouldn’t have touched her if she hadn’t said that.
“I am really sorry. She was drunk. I was sober,” he told gardaí.
In her victim impact statement the woman told Gunnery Snr that “you took advantage of me when you should have taken me home”.
She said she suffered crippling guilt and shame and entertained thoughts like “I drank too much, my skirt was too short, my knee high boots were too inviting”.
She feared that her attacker was still out driving a taxi and knew whereabouts she lived and said she still suffers flashbacks and becomes upset if she sees a silver coloured taxi. She said Christmas time last year is difficult because of her fear of drinking and being “in town” again.
Lawyers for Gunnery Snr asked Judge O’Connor not define him for these “ten minutes of a life” which was otherwise “all of good”.
Dominic McGinn SC, defending, said his client’s actions that night were “completely out of character”. He handed in testimonials describing Gunnery Snr as a hard working, “good man” with a “kind heart”.
Mr McGinn told the court that his client has “not fared well” during the last two months in custody. The court heard Gunnery Snr was the victim of an attack by a fellow inmate and underwent surgery on a cancerous growth on his face.
He said his client had also had “significant difficultly” accessing medical care.