Taxi driver has speeding conviction thrown out of court

An Iranian-born taxi driver, who last week had his conviction for speeding thrown out of court, says that he has endured a campaign of harrassment and victimisation by police.

Ricardo Alavijeh (47) claimed he was "maliciously prosecuted" after refusing to give a lift to a drunk and abusive policeman.

A short time later, outside Portstewart, he was spoken to by a team of police officers in a van and charged with speeding.

He was subsequently fined 150 and given three points on his previously clear licence.

However Mr Alavijeh appealed the case and at County Court in Coleraine last Tuesday the conviction was quashed.

"It has been a year of complete hell," he told The Coleraine Times.

"Police have been stopping and checking me at every opportunity, at least eight times in the past twelve months.

"They even breathlysed me in a nightclub car park - a taxi driver with passengers in the car!

"This was nothing but a trumped up charge and the judge threw it out."

Mr Alavijeh, who originally came to Northern Ireland to study medicine, said the trouble began in October last year when he was outside a nightclub in Portrush waiting on a fare.

"It was around 1.30am-1.45am on Sunday, October 19. An off duty male officer and female officer got into my taxi.

"I told them I was booked and would come back for them in 15 minutes.

"The man demanded that I take them now or he would have his colleagues put me off the road.

"He racially abused me, calling me "A Paki b-stard. They then got out of the car."

Mr Alavijeh, who claimed the man had short brown hair and was in his 40s, began taking down details of his taxi registration number and taxi plate and using his phone.

A short time later Mr Alavijeh was spoken to police in a van close to the former Snappers Restaurant.

"I asked them what was the problem. They said: 'Is this your car?' 'What nationality are you?' 'Where is the disc for your car?' They ushered two of my passengers away.

"I attempted to shake hands with one of the officers but he said: "We do not have a policy of shaking hands with anyone, let alone you."

Despite asking the officers for electronic proof that he had been speeding and receiving none, Mr Alavijeh said he was then warned that "if you go on the way you are there are five of us".

He added: "He opened the door of the police van and there were three other officers.

"I told them that this was nothing but bigotry, facism and racism and that someone had put them up to this."

Mr Alivijeh, who has been taxi-driving for 17 years, always maintained his innocence and also reported the matter to the Police Ombudsman.

And after last week's court verdict in his favour, he added: "I just want the harrassment to stop.

"I have been assaulted by a man, had criminal damage to my car and been abused and the police do nothing.

"I just want to earn an honest living like anyone else."

A police spokesman said that anyone with a complaint against police should contact the Police Ombudsman.