A man jailed for threatening to blow a Catholic taxi driver’s brains out at gunpoint failed today in a bid to overturn his conviction.
Lee Hosie, 26, had denied producing a pistol and asking the victim if he was “A Prod or a Taig” after being picked up in Belfast in December 2012.
But the Court of Appeal declared the guilty verdict safe after rejecting arguments about opinion evidence and potential alibi witnesses.
Hosie, from Melford Drive in the city, received a four-year sentence in March 2016 for possessing a firearm with intent, threats to kill and making off without payment.
At his trial a jury heard he was picked up late at night in the Mount Vernon area and taken to Donegall Pass.
During the journey the driver said Hosie had a telephone conversation where he spoke about “the Provies had fired a shot from the Short Strand”.
He also allegedly told the person on the other end: “I can’t say too much, you know the score.”
After finishing the call Hosie questioned the driver on his religion, told him he had spent time in jail and rhymed off his prison number, the court heard.
At one point the victim said he braked at lights near Belfast Metropolitan College, heard a thud and looked to see a gun at the defendant’s feet.
He stated that his passenger picked it up and told him to mind his own business.
During the rest of the journey Hosie allegedly kept repeating: “You must be a Taig.”
When the arrived at Donegall Pass the defendant got out and met two men before returning to the window of the taxi.
According to the driver he bent down, produced the gun and warned: “The next time you’re cheeky with me I’ll blow your f****** brains out.”
One of Hosie’s associates was said to have told him to “wind his neck in, we’ve more important stuff to do”.
But he then allegedly persisted by telling the driver: “You’re lucky that I only have a couple of rounds, otherwise you’d be getting it.”
Hosie initially denied being in the taxi, but later claimed there had been a dispute about the fare where he was rude and accused the driver of overcharging.
He claimed to have had no weapon on him.
Appealing the conviction, defence lawyers challenged a refusal to allow evidence that cast doubt on the driver’s ability to have seen any gun dropped in his car.
But Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justice Weatherup and Mrs Justice Keegan, ruled the trial judge was correct to keep out an opinion which could have misled the jury into thinking it was expert evidence.
They also rejected a further ground of challenge over directions to jurors on Hosie’s failure to call potential alibi evidence from the two associate witnesses.
Sir Declan pointed out that on Hosie’s case the two men saw everything that happened and paid off the driver.
“Against a background where the appellant had already given a lying account about his movements on the evening in question it would, in our view, have been inappropriate to leave this issue in the air without giving the jury some measure of direction,” he said.
Dismissing the appeal, he confirmed: “For the reasons given we do not consider that the conviction is unsafe.”