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ABC News
ABC News
By Lucy MacDonald

Teen jailed after stealing taxi at knifepoint during drug-induced psychotic episode

Justice Michael Brett said it was hard to see a more dangerous case of driving.

A teenager who threatened a taxi driver with a knife, stole his cab and then "erratically" drove around Hobart's eastern shore at speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour has been sentenced to more than four years' jail.

Bailey Dennis Robert, 19, appeared in the Supreme Court of Tasmania on Friday.

The court heard that on New Year's Day, 2020, Robert had ordered a cab to his house to take him into the city.

The teenager, who was under the influence of methylamphetamine, was suffering from a psychotic episode brought on by the drug and was carrying a knife in his pocket "to protect him".

The court heard that after jumping into the front passenger seat of the cab, Robert produced the knife and held it to the driver's stomach while saying: "I need your car. Just get out of your car. I need your car."

The driver stopped the taxi and fled, leaving behind his mobile and wallet.

Robert then jumped in the driver's seat and proceeded to drive at a high speed in an aggressive and "highly erratic manner" for about 30 minutes.

The court heard he drove through multiple red lights without slowing or braking, endangered a 10-year-old girl on a bicycle and drove on the wrong side of the road to overtake vehicles.

When a police car tried to intercept him by activating its emergency lights and sirens, Robert accelerated and weaved through traffic at 140kph

His drive only came to an end when he crashed into the dividing wire - the vehicle spun out and sustained extensive damage.

He was arrested by police at the scene where he continually repeated comments that he'd been set up and the police were trying to kill him.

Crime was not premeditated

The court heard the 19-year old had suffered from physical abuse and neglect as child and had spent years in and out of foster care.

He was not licensed at the time of his offending.

In his sentencing, Justice Michael Brett said Robert's "criminal actions were not premeditated" and that he did not plan the carjacking but rather "acted spontaneously once [he was] in the taxi".

He said the taxi driver had found the car jacking "distressing and traumatic" and had not been able to drive a cab for a significant period of time, resulting in financial hardship.

Justice Brett said while the driver was now back in work, he still struggles to this day.

He said Robert's behaviour on that day had put numerous people at risk and the fact he didn't hurt anyone was a "matter of pure luck".

"You did not desist of your own volition," said Justice Brett.

"It's hard to see a more dangerous case of driving."

But he said he also had to into account Robert's early plea of guilty, young age and "genuine remorse".

Robert was sentenced to four years and 49 days in prison, with 12 months suspended and a non-parole period of 18 months and 49 days.

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