A SKIPTON man who shouted racial abuse at a taxi driver and threatened to punch him has been given a 12 week suspended prison sentence.

Edward Clarke, 34, had been drinking all afternoon on December 29 when at about 7pm he asked taxi driver Parvez Akhtar to drive him home, heard Skipton Magistrates Court.

He got out of the taxi to get some money from a cashpoint, and without any apparent reason started shouting racial abuse at Mr Akhtar.

Mr Akhtar, who had locked the car’s doors as he usually did, but had left a window open, described being ‘heartbroken’ by the language and scared by the threats.

Clarke reached through the open window in an attempt to punch Mr Akhtar, tried to open the driver’s door and kicked the taxi. He then went to the other side, continued with his threats and kicks to the vehicle and grabbed a wing mirror with both hands, and pulled if off.

Passers by tried to help, and Mr Akhtar, who was by then in shock, asked for them to call the police, which they had already done.

Mr Akhtar later said he had felt ‘heartbroken’ by the racial abuse, which he had experienced before, but not with the additional threats, which had left him extremely shaken and upset.

His car had been dented and a wing mirror removed, which he estimated would cost £700 to repair.

Clarke, who admitted criminal damage to Mr Akhtar’s Toyota Avensis, and using racially aggravated threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, had acted ‘completely out of character’ and could remember nothing of what had happened, the court was told.

In mitigation, John Mewies said Clarke accepted he had a problem with alcohol, was a ‘binge drinker’ and was voluntarily going to drugs and alcohol rehabilitation service, Horizons.

He said Clarke had been out for a meal with his mother and a sister just after Christmas and had continued drinking in town after they had left him and gone home.

Mr Mewies said Clarke had no recollection at all of the incident, and in fact had enough money on him to pay for the taxi home. He had since written a letter of apology to Mr Akhtar, which was handed in to the court.

Clarke, of Cross Bank, who works as a driver, was told by magistrates his letter to Mr Akhtar was ‘compelling’ but that it was a very serious matter that had been aggravated by the use of racially abusive language. He was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison for the racially aggravated behaviour and nine weeks for the criminal damage, to run concurrently, and suspended for 12 months. He was also ordered to carry out 80 hours unpaid work and pay £700 compensation to Mr Akhtar for the damage to the vehicle, in addition to £115 surcharge and £85 costs.