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Taxi driver who sexually assaulted passenger who passed out in his car jailed for four years

The victim told the court of how she continues to live with the “devastating” impact of what had happened.

File photo. Court room.
File photo. Court room.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

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 that she woke up to find Gerard Gunnery Snr (60) with his hand inside her and masturbating himself. He then became aggressive and threw her out of the car, leaving her in a heap on the side of the road.

Gunnery Snr of Ellenfield Road, Whitehall, Dublin pleaded guilty to sexual assaulting the woman in Dublin city on 23 December 2017. Evidence was originally heard in the case last November and Gunnery was then remanded in custody.

Today, 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 Gunnery’s behaviour.

She said the offending had been a massive breach of trust in his role as a taxi driver. She said holders of public service vehicle licences had certain responsibilities and these had been breached.

Judge O’Connor said the woman had been taken advantage of when she was vulnerable. She noted when the victim questioned Gunnery’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.

Judge O’Connor took into account Gunnery’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 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 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”.

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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 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 as a hard working, “good man” with a “kind heart”.

McGinn told the court that Gunnery has “not fared well” during the last two months in custody. The court heard Gunnery 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.

The court previously heard that since details of Gunnery’s offending were published, his son has been threatened and had his car vandalised. Judge O’Connor asked that any publicity should distinguish between Gunnery Snr and his son.

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Declan Brennan and Fiona Ferguson

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