By Fiona Ferguson
A Donegal woman who was in the back seat of a taxi when her friend’s boyfriend and his brother robbed and assaulted the driver will be sentenced in November.
Nikkita Brogan (24) released the taxi driver’s seatbelt so the men could drag the taxi driver from his vehicle and assisted in reattaching the knob of the gearstick as the men attempted to start the taxi.
The court heard Brogan had accompanied her friend to Dublin to visit the brothers, Peter (26) and Jason (18) Collins, whom they were seeing at the time. Her friend who was also in the taxi has since died.
The two brothers were sentenced in December 2019 for robbery, assault causing harm and unlawful seizure of a car.
The court heard during their sentence hearing that Peter Collins wrapped a phone charger cable around the neck of the 60-year-old taxi man while his younger brother Jason Collins punched the man in the face and searched his pockets.
Peter Collins of Collinstown Crescent, Clondalkin received four and a half years imprisonment. Jason Collins of Eden Quay, Dublin 1 received three and a half years imprisonment with the final 12 months suspended.
Brogan, of Croagh Patrick Avenue, Letterkenny, Co Donegal pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to unlawful seizure of a vehicle at Rutland Grove, Crumlin, on May 6, 2019.
Detective Garda Caroline Kelly told Kieran Kelly BL, prosecuting, that the taxi driver picked the two men and two women up in the city centre and brough them to Crumlin. He said as soon as he stated the fare a “rope” came from the back and around his neck choking him.
He said the man in the passenger seat began punching him and checking his pockets. He was thrown out of the taxi and another taxi driver came to his aid while the men tried to start his car.
The taxi driver said the girls had stayed in the back seat and while they did not threaten or assault him, they did not tell the lads to stop either.
A dash cam recorded the offence and it was played for the court. Brogan can be seen leaning forward from the back to unclick the seat belt before the taxi driver is pulled out of the car. She is also seen assisting in reattaching the gearstick knob.
The group were unable to restart the car and abandoned it but were arrested nearby.
Brogan, who has 76 previous convictions mainly for shoplifting and was on bail for theft offences at the time, accepted she was in the car and had unclicked the seat belt. She is currently serving a three month term for theft and is due for release in September.
She repeatedly said during interview that what had happened was a disgrace, shouldn’t have happened and she was sorry. She said she hoped that the taxi driver would be ok.
Paul O’Carroll SC, defending, said that Brogan and her friend came to Dublin on the bus to visit Jason Collins whom her friend was going out with. He said Brogan began going out with Peter for a very short time. He said they had met up on that evening and been drinking.
Mr Carroll said Brogan had indicated at all times that she would plead guilty but the case had been delayed when it was stated to the Court of Appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions in order to have a procedural matter related to the service of books of evidence clarified. He said his client had not stood in the way of this.
He handed in a letter of apology from Brogan and said she had been taking tablets and drinking a lot at the time of the offending. He said her prolific shoplifting convictions ties in with her “going off the rails.”
Counsel said this offence is something Brogan is apologetic for and had been shocked about at the time.
Judge Melanie Greally said Brogan had been dealt with fairly leniently in the past but it hadn’t really brought about any improvement in her conduct. She adjourned the case until November 12th next to allow a probation report be prepared.
The court will hear the balance of the plea in mitigation on Brogan’s behalf on the next date.