Jail for attack on taxi driver

A MAN who sparked a late-night high-speed police chase after a taxi driver was attacked has been jailed for 18 months.

A Hudson’s cabbie was left temporarily blinded when he was sprayed in the face with what is thought to be hairspray after he picked up a fare in Hartlepool and an argument developed over payment.

The driver stumbled out after grabbing his takings, and Wayne Rogan, 26, drove off.

He was joined in the drunken joyride by Ian Harrison, 33, Laura Church, 21, and Sarah Lilley, 28.

During the police chase that followed, the Skoda Octavia was driven at speeds of up to 70mph when it twice mounted grass verges and drove the wrong way round a roundabout and on the wrong side of a dual carriageway.

It skidded to a halt after crashing through a fence in Hindpool Close, on the Central Estate.

A judge at Teesside Crown Court said the taxi driver would probably think the 18-month sentence was “grossly inadequate”, but said he was limited by the law.

The group was originally charged with robbery, but all later admitted lesser offences.

Rogan, who has a string of previous motor convictions, admitted aggravated vehicle taking which has a maximum length of two years prison.

He was also disqualified from driving for three years.

The others all admitted allowing themselves to be carried in a vehicle taken without consent.

The cab driver picked up the group in Butterwick Road, Hartlepool, just after midnight on February 21.

After an argument over whether they could pay the £18 fare, the driver asked them to get out.

Rupert Doswell, prosecuting, said: “On the final time of asking, he recalled being sprayed in the face with some noxious substance for about 10 to 15 seconds.

“His eyes watered uncontrollably. He fell out of the car, ran up the road, and turned round to see it being driven off.”

It is not known who sprayed the substance, but Rogan, who had been out celebrating his birthday, accepted being the driver.

Jim Withyman, mitigating for Rogan, of Heortnesse Road, Hartlepool, said: “He impulsively got into the vehicle and drove away. He realises it was a foolish act and he has difficulty in controlling himself while in drink.”

Harrison, of Collingwood Road, Hartlepool, who was abusive to the driver, was given four months prison but will be released immediately as he has served 133 days on remand.

Aisha Wadoodi, mitigating for Church, a mum-of-two from Edinburgh Grove, Hartlepool, said she had abused alcohol after suffering domestic violence and added: “She is disgusted with herself.”

Victoria Lamballe, mitigating for unemployed Lilley, of Butterwick Road, Hartlepool, said: “She is a young woman who has made a stupid drink-fuelled mistake.”

Both women were given nine month community orders with 50 hours unpaid work.

Recorder Rodney Jameson QC said: “The reality of the situation is it is not easy to think of a much worse aggravated vehicle taking.

“I have no doubt when looked at from the outside, the taxi driver will no doubt think that is a grossly inadeqaute sentence and to an extent that is right.

“But that is what the sentencing powers of the court are.

“When a taxi driver is subjected to this sort of hooliganism it is a very serious matter.”