Northern Ireland news

Taxi driver who deliberately drove at passenger who refused to pay fare narrowly escapes jail

William David McFarland appearing at Downpatrick court. Picture by Pacemaker Press

A TAXI driver who deliberately drove at his passenger when he refused to pay his fare has narrowly escaped a jail sentence.

Judge Piers Grant imposed a 100 hours community service and two years on probation on William David McFarland, from Owenroe Drive in Bangor, Co Down.

The judge told 57-year-old he was "extremely tempted" to jail him but, as he would inevitably lose his job, he would hand him an enhanced combination order instead.

With McFarland standing in the dock at Downpatrick Crown Court, the judge warned him however that if he breached any aspect of the orders or reoffended, "you will be brought back immediately to this court and if you come before me it's almost inevitable that you will go to prison".

On the morning his trial was due to begin, McFarland pleaded guilty to attempting to cause grievous bodily harm to Alan McMullan with intent, dangerous driving, failing to remain after an accident and failing to report the accident on June 25 last year.

The court heard Mr McMullan jumped to the head of the queue at the taxi rank on Bangor's High Street and "pushed his way into" McFarland's car ahead of those already waiting.

"He was clearly intoxicated and his behaviour in any description, was extremely poor," Judge Grant said, adding that when the car stopped close to Bangor football club, Mr McMullan "declined to pay... he said he would only pay a small amount".

He walked off without paying anything but McFarland deliberately drove "directly at him", breaking his wrist and causing bruising to his knees and lower back.

Mr McMullan returned to the taxi rank to confront the driver, demanding: "Do you remember me?" but McFarland drove off.

McFarland initially denied the incident and claimed he had been threatened by the victim.

Judge Grant branded it "absolutely disgraceful behaviour", which, despite the argument, "it's quite clear this was an unprovoked attack".

He described Mr McMullan as "to a large extent defenceless and certainly defenceless against a car" which was used "as a weapon".

Also imposing a five-year driving ban and £400 fine, the judge said McFarland's loss of job and resulting financial difficulties is a "disastrous set of circumstances of your own making because behaviour like this is simply and utterly unacceptable and you will suffer the consequences".

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