A TAXI driver who left a passenger unconscious after a brutal attack has been jailed for four years.
Ronald Bell, 60, was caught on CCTV punching Lee Jackson to the ground before kicking and stamping him unconscious after he thought was making off without paying his fare.
The savage assault left Mr Jackson, a self-employed bathroom fitter, needing more than three months off work with a broken collarbone and facing surgery to fully repair the injury.
He also suffered a black eye, with bruising and abrasions across his body.
At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday Bell, of Trinity Walk, South Shields, was jailed for four years.
Judge Penny Moreland told him: “Your position is aggravated by the fact you are a taxi driver, people trust you to take them home safely.
“The passengers you take home often are in drink and you have a responsibility not to take advantage of that.
“I accept the trigger for this was fear of losing the fare at a time of financial stress.”
The court heard Mr Jackson had been on a night out in South Shields and had asked Bell, a taxi driver of 20 years experience, to stop at a cashpoint near his home in Whitburn so he could take out the £11 fare last May.
CCTV footage from Northguards in the town captured Bell getting out of his people carrier and launching the violence.
Kevin Wardlaw, prosecuting, said: “After the single blow which caused Mr Jackson to fall, the crown say there is five to six kicks to his upper body followed by seven, possibly eight, stamps.”
Mr Jackson told police he was in the “foetal position” trying to protect himself from the violence but eventually lost consciousness.
He said in a victim impact statement: “What makes it worse is he’s a taxi driver who should be responsible for the welfare of his passengers.
“He left me unconscious in the street.”
Peter Schofield, defending, said Bell has worked in the taxi trade for 20 years without incident and has lost his job and home as a result of what he did.
Mr Schofield said: “it was the defendant’s belief he was in fact losing a fare, once again.
“He, for some unexplained reason, reacted in this way which is out of character.”
Mr Schofield said Bell “simply snapped” while working under pressure and is deeply ashamed and sincerely apologetic.
Bell had admitted causing grievous bodily harm with intent at an earlier hearing.