A man has been convicted of a “vile” racially-motivated assault on a taxi driver in County Antrim.
Mark Brown (31), of Skerryview in Craigahullier near Portrush, was also found guilty of making off without paying for an £18.40 taxi fare.
The defendant had contested the charges but was convicted at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday.
Deputy District Judge Peter Magill said it was a “racially-motivated” offence and the defendant had “clearly expressed vile racist comments” regarding 56-year-old taxi driver Ricardo Alavijeh.
Mr Alavijeh, who is understood to be originally from the Middle East, told the court Brown punched him on the head whilst he was in his cab but because he was wearing a cap he wasn’t seriously injured.
He said he drove up the road to phone the police and noticed Brown “running after me”.
“I was very worried, I was panicking,” he said.
He told the court Brown was also “being racist towards me” during the incident.
The taxi driver said he had initially received a call under a different name and wasn’t at first aware it was Brown.
Brown’s defence barrister claimed the taxi driver “decided to make trouble” for Brown by falsely accusing him of assault and not paying the fare.
The lawyer alleged that Brown had tried to pay the taxi fare.
Mr Alavijeh told the court: “As a taxi driver dealing with drunk people and people under the influence of drugs there are a lot of incidents of racial abuse in Coleraine. I don’t even bother phoning the police unless it is serious.”
Statements from police officers said that when arrested, Brown made several remarks including references to “Muslim c-nt”, “low-rent Jihadi b-stard”, “Jihadi bombing b-stards” and “dirty P-ki b-stard”.
Officers said Brown told them: “You may do me for racism but I didn’t touch the b-stard”.
Brown claimed the taxi driver had a “grudge” against him and the allegation that he punched Mr Alavijeh was “a tissue of lies”.
Brown told the court that on the date in question he ordered a taxi to take him from his partner’s home, where he had drunk two bottles of wine, to go to his parents’ home and when he realised the driver was Mr Alavijeh he wasn’t going to use the taxi but was told to get in.
Brown claimed he got out of the car intending to make payment with a £20 note but the taxi driver then drove off.
The defendant said he was later arrested when “two carloads of police like something out of Helmand Province” arrived at his parents’ home.
Brown admitted he had made remarks to police and said it was because he was “agitated and frustrated” at being arrested as he had to get up to be at a quarry at 5.30am.
He told the court he had no exact memory of what he said to police and added: “I apologise for the nature of the words”.
A prosecutor said Mr Alavijeh said the defendant called him a “Paki b-stard” in the taxi and said he was “not going to get a penny” for the fare but Brown said that was a “complete falsehood”.
The court heard Brown had been convicted in 2009 of similar offences against Mr Alavijeh.
Convicting the defendant of the 2018 offences, Judge Magill said the two men had “history” and that in the November incident Brown had travelled in a taxi and no payment was made.
Having seen and heard from both men in court the judge said he was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of Brown’s guilt.
The judge said he did not believe Mr Alavijeh would make up a false account for no reason which he would then have to tell to police and a court.
Judge Magill said Brown had “clearly expressed vile racist comments”.
He said it was a “racially motivated offence” and said he needed a pre-sentence report on Brown and adjourned sentencing until February.