A 20-year-old man punched three Bradford taxi drivers in the head

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A 20-year-old man who punched three Bradford taxi drivers in the head while cheating them out of their fares has been spared an immediate custodial sentence.

Byron Rushforth framed lifts then violently attacked taxi drivers when they asked for their fare, Bradford Crown Court heard yesterday.

He also spat at and verbally assaulted two police officers called after one of the assaults, prosecutor Abigail Langford said.

Rushforth, of Bowlingfield, Fulwood, Preston, pleaded guilty to assaulting a taxi driver by beating him and running away without paying his £22.50 fare on October 12 last year; assaulting and causing actual bodily harm to a second taxi driver, spitting on two police officers and fleeing without payment on December 5; and assaulting a third taxi driver by beating him and fleeing without payment on December 14.

Miss Langford said the first offenses triggered came after he took a taxi from Illingworth to the New Tyke public house in Thornton Road, Bradford.

When the driver demanded payment, Rushforth punched him in the face.

The victim left his vehicle and described “running for his life” with Rushforth in pursuit. He also saw the accused with a large knife, Miss Langford said.

Rushforth struck again in early December after a taxi picked him up and two women and dropped them off on Pemberton Drive in Bradford.

The driver was punched three or four times in the face, suffered a cut above his eye, and left the scene without payment.

Nine days later, Rushforth attacked a third taxi driver on Bracewell Avenue, Allerton, Bradford, knocking him down before fleeing.

He had previous convictions for assault, criminal damage, assault on a police officer and threatening behavior.

Paul Canfield, Rushforth’s attorney, admitted he had a bad record on violence.

He had been on remand at HMP Doncaster for three months and would receive treatment in the community for his alcohol abuse.

Recorder Judy Dawson said taxi drivers need to trust their passengers. They let complete strangers into their car, often at night when no one else is around, which makes them vulnerable.

“The taxi drivers aren’t there to get you where you want to go, and if they’re so bold as to ask for their fare, they get mugged,” she said.

Rushforth was sentenced to eight months in a juvenile facility, suspended for two years, with 280 hours of unpaid work.

He must follow a nine-month alcohol treatment program and 35 days of rehabilitation activities.

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