A cab driver has avoided jail after he assaulted a couple during a row over a fare.
44-year-old Nicholae Paunescu, of Roping Road, Yeovil pleaded not guilty to assaulting Simon Bishop and Katie Tilley on 5 January but was convicted after a trial.
The court heard how Mr Bishop and Miss Tilley were assaulted after Paunescu was booked to collect them outside the Railway Hotel on Hendford Hill at 6pm.
Thomas Faulkner, prosecuting, explained to the court that a friend had ordered a cab being driven by Mr Paunescu from Radio Cabs. An agreement had been reached where payment would be made by the friend at the end of the journey because the couple had no money.
The couple got into the back of the cab, however a disagreement then took place over the cabbie requiring payment upfront which lasted several minutes.
Mr Faulkner told the court that Mr Bishop attempted to make contact with his friend. At the same time, Mr Paunescu contacted the cab office and was told that one of the passenger’s mobile phones was to be held as collateral. However, the defendant was unhappy at this and refused to take the couple. They then got out of the vehicle.
Mr Bishop slammed the door, prompting the defendant to get out of the vehicle and ask why he had slammed the door so hard. The court heard how Mr Paunescu approached the couple and pushed them both.
Mr Bishop, who was giving evidence at the trial, explained that after the cabbie had refused the offer of the phone being held as collateral, he got out and shut the door hard so it wouldn't spring back open.
The cabbie then got out of the car asking, "why did you slam the f***ing door?”, to which he tried to explain why he shut the door hard. The cabbie then placed his right hand over his face and shoved him backwards. Mr Bishop then said: "I spun around in a defensive stance and my fiancée told him to f*** off but he then grabbed her by the chin and throat and shoved her backwards and she narrowly missed a telegraph pole."
Mr Paunescu explained to the court that he has the right to refuse a fare if somebody refuses to pay in advance as he could not be sure of getting paid at the other end. When they realised they would have to walk they became very angry and started saying things like "stupid bloody driver". The defendant said that after he assaulted Mr Bishop, Miss Tilley had to step in between them to prevent her fiance from being aggressive back. He added: "I deserved an apology and did not deserve to be sworn at and was polite at all times."
Managing director of Radio Cabs, Andrew Rossiter, told the court that it was company policy for all fares to be paid upfront although they would not encourage taking collateral. Mr Rossiter explained that it had not been agreed that the fare would be paid for at the destination and they would not normally agree to this due to being let down in the past.
Defending solicitor Greg Peters said that there were no injuries suffered by the victims and the defendant was of previous good character.
District Judge David Taylor, found Paunescu guilty of two counts of assault and fined him £150 for each of the assaults.
According to Somerset Live he was also ordered to pay trial costs of £775 and a £30 victim surcharge.
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