My friend Mohammad (see Dangerous Detention) has had another ordeal. He worked as a taxi driver in Hull, Yorkshire, until the Home Office withdrew his right to work. He worked mostly at night and, like most immigrant taxi drivers, experienced racial abuse and physical attacks on a regular basis from the good, white burghers of Hull. Last year, after one of these incidents, he himself was charged with “attack by beating”, the accusation being that he bit the hand of one of the two female passengers in his car. The hearing was at Beverley Magistrates’ Court in East Yorkshire on 25-26 April. The following account of the court’s judgment will make clear the facts of the case.
There were 3 magistrates: 2 women and a man. The chair read their collective judgment to the court, but addressed Mohammad in particular. After outlining the main points of evidence, she said:
There was never at any time a threat from you to either of your passengers. On the contrary, they made you feel threatened. We find that in circumstances in which you received racial and other verbal abuse at their hands, and while they were throwing food at you in the taxi, you acted appropriately and responsibly as a professional driver. You stopped the taxi and warned them that unless they ceased their behaviour you would take them no further. One of the women phoned her boyfriend, telling him: “Meet us at the station, we’re getting abuse from our driver.” Not surprisingly, you felt threatened by this and when they refused to leave the taxi you told them that you would take them back into the town centre to the police station, and you set off. While you were negotiating a roundabout in order to turn back to town, one of the women assaulted you, leant forward and pulled on the handbrake to try to stop the car. The other woman began to open the door on the left-hand side. You struggled to control the car and eventually brought it to a halt by the kerb. We find your behaviour, again, appropriate, as befits a professional driver with a responsibility to his passengers and other road users. We find that you did not deliberately bite the hand of one of the women, as alleged. We therefore find you not guilty, and you are free to go.
I think in fact that the women’s game was up on the first day when one of them was asked by Mohammad’s solicitor: “Do you remember the first thing you said when you got into the taxi was ‘Oh look, another Paki taxi driver’?” She looked at him and started laughing, giggling, and she looked as if she was expecting him to enjoy the joke. When he didn’t she got a bit stroppy, then became sulky, and said that Moh was lying. They had also both previously revealed that by the time they’d got into the taxi at 1am, they had each had 2 Beck’s beers and about 9 vodkas at a minimum, “around 10-15 drinks”, in 5 different pubs.
After the verdict, the place was awash with tears, and a number of Afghan taxi drivers were pretending not to cry!
Now all Mohammad has to face is his immigration hearing (not for at least a month though).
UPDATE: Moh lost the immigration hearing in the summer, and was deported back to Afghanistan. He is not safe where he is.