A Belfast judge has warned “loutish’’ passengers who assault taxi drivers that they will go to jail.
Judge Corinne Philpott QC issued the warning as she sentenced convicted rioter Jamie Albert Bloomer to three months in prison.
The 23-year-old pleaded guilty on Wednesday to assault occasioning actual bodily harm to the Fonacab driver.
Prosecutor Kate McKay told Belfast Crown Court that Bloomer was one three passengers the driver picked up in January 2012 from a drink-fuelled house party on the Springfield Road in west Belfast.
While on route to a house in south Belfast, she said Bloomer “put his arm around the neck’’ of the taxi driver who was forced to do a handbrake turn in the middle of the road.
Two other male passengers fled the scene while Bloomer “took a swipe’’ at the taxi driver in the road.
“The taxi driver landed a punch on the cheek of the defendant,’’ said Ms McKay, adding that Bloomer then ran off in the direction of Dunville Street but was later arrested by police.
She said he had three previous convictions for riotous behaviour and also for breaching a community service order.
Defence barrister Joel Lindsay said father-of-three Bloomer was “remorseful for his actions’’ and was now coming out “the far end of his bad behaviour’’.
Judge Philpott QC said Bloomer had been given previous chances by the courts, including an 18-month suspended sentence for rioting.
The deputy Recorder for Belfast said the incident had had a profound effect on the 33-year-old taxi driver.
As a result of the incident, he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress, had lost his second job at a student’s union and had curtailed his taxi work.
“This behaviour cannot be allowed to go on. People need to realise that if they assault taxi drivers they will receive a custodial sentence,’’ said Judge Philpott.
“Taxi drivers are entitled to do their jobs without being subjected to this type of loutish and aggressive behaviour.’’
However, she warned other taxi drivers not to take the law into their own hands if attacked.
“This type of violence meted out will not be condoned by the courts and is completely inappropriate.’’
The judge added that but for his guilty plea, Bloomer would have been sentenced to nine months in prison.
Judge Philpott ordered Bloomer to spend six weeks of his three months jail term in prison.