Taxi-driver cleared of assaulting woman in bust-up over fare home

NEWS from Nottingham Magistrates' Court.
NEWS from Nottingham Magistrates' Court.

A taxi driver has been cleared in court of assaulting a Hucknall woman in a bust-up over her fare home after a girls’ night out.

The woman, 21-year-old Charlotte Ellis, accused Faisal Iqbal of punching her in the face as they argued when his car pulled up outside her house.

As she tumbled out of the taxi, Mr Iqbal also drove away with some of her belongings still in his car, which amounted to theft, the court heard.

She had managed to take a photo of him with her mobile iPhone, which she later posted on Facebook, complete with warnings about the driver.

Using “colourful language”, one of the messages read: “Never get into a taxi with this f……”.

Another said: “Ain’t no-one going to intimidate me. I will put his photo on every lamp-post.” A third read: “Who says being a psycho gets you nowhere?”

However, after a four-hour trial at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court, 28-year-old Mr Iqbal, a father of four young children, partially cleared his name.

He was found not guilty of charges of assault and theft. And although he was found guilty of damaging Miss Ellis’s phone during the kerfuffle by grabbing it off her and throwing it out of the car, he vehemently denied this was true and announced immediately that he is to appeal against the conviction.

Mr Iqbal’s solicitor, David Houldcroft, defending, said Miss Ellis’s Facebook messages were nothing more than boasts to her friends, as if she was “some kind of taxi super-hero”.

“You were saying you sorted this guy out and that no-one messes with Charlotte -- just to justify your strange and crazy behaviour,” said the solicitor.

The court was told that the trouble began at about 5.30 am on Saturday, August 29 last year. Both Mr Iqbal, of Dorset Street, Wollaton, and Miss Ellis gave evidence to the magistrates.

Mr Iqbal, who works for Nottingham Cars and has been a taxi driver for three years, had picked up a man in Sherwood and taken him to the McDonald’s takeaway on Clumber Street in Nottingham city centre.

He was waiting outside the shop when Miss Ellis jumped in the front passenger’s seat.

She had been out with friends since 10 pm, starting in the Chequers pub in Hucknall, moving on to bars in Nottingham and ending up at Propaganda nightclub.

She admitted she had had a lot to drink, but “was aware of what was going on”. “I normally drink loads more,” she said. Mr Iqbal felt she was “very drunk”.

Miss Ellis said the pair agreed a fare back to Hucknall of £10, which she thought was “very cheap”. However, Mr Iqbal said they only decided on a fare after his male passenger had been dropped back off in Sherwood.

The meter in the taxi read £13, so the passenger handed over £10 and said Miss Ellis would pay the rest. Mr Iqbal then agreed a fare of a further £15 to Hucknall and took Miss Ellis to a cashpoint on Mansfield Road where she withdrew £20. After she had handed this over, he gave her £5 back in change.

However, Miss Ellis refuted this account, claiming that when she gave the driver this £20, he said he would give her the correct change once they arrived back in Hucknall.

The bust-up erupted when they got to her home. The meter read £26, so Mr Iqbal felt he was entitled to more money. On the other hand, Miss Ellis felt she was entitled to £10 change back.

Mark Fielding, prosecuting, told the court: “There was a confrontation in which he punched her. She felt so distressed that she took photos of him. He took exception to this, grabbed the phone off her and threw it out of the car, smashing it.

“She felt the need to escape from what was a very frightening experience for a lone female in the early hours of the morning with a taxi driver who was losing it.

“As the car drove off, she left behind her phone charger and one of her high-heeled shoes, which she had taken off earlier.”

Miss Ellis told the court: “He started getting annoyed and aggressive. When he tried to drive away, I put the handbrake on. As I managed to get out of the moving car, I hurt myself.”

However, Mr Iqbal’s account was very different as he accused of Miss Ellis of assaulting him.

“She started shouting and fighting, and she hit me with her high-heeled shoes,” he told the court. “I put my hands up to try and protect myself.

“I was nervous, so I said I would drive to the police station to sort things out. But after driving about 200 yards, she put the handbrake on and also grabbed the steering-wheel and gearstick.

“She took my picture, so I gave her my contact card. Before I drove away, I also gave her the £10 back because it was just not worth the bother.”

Mr Iqbal’s solicitor, David Houldcroft, accused Miss Ellis of being “terribly drunk and then becoming confused about the fare and getting the wrong end of the stick”.

“She must have been pretty hammered, and yet here was a sober taxi-driver, who has never been in trouble before, just going about his business,” Mr Houldcroft added.

After being found guilty of damaging the phone, Mr Iqbal was sentenced to a compensation order of £50 and told to pay court costs of £250.

“We feel that you did react and throw it out of the car-window because you didn’t want your photo to be taken,” the chairman of the Bench, Mrs H.R.Wreford, told him.

“But with regard to the assault, we feel there was an altercation but no intent or recklessness by you. There was also no intention to deprive Miss Ellis of her property.”