Cabbies unite over alcohol-fuelled assaults

A DOZEN fed-up taxi drivers stood by their mates at court yesterday as three men pleaded guilty to assaulting two cabbies during another alcohol-fuelled incident in Newcastle.

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Newcastle Taxis general manager John Woods called for custodial sentences for the three offenders who attacked Bob Forbes and Greg Evans on August 14.

Thomas Grant Robertson, 24, of Partridge Place, Singleton Heights, John Lee Trayhurn, 21, of Douglas Street, Stockton, and Grant Zack Parker, 24, of Clyde Street, Stockton, pleaded guilty to assault yesterday.

Their solicitor, Kate Maher, said the trio disputed some of the facts in relation to the incident and the case was adjourned to November.

The trio assaulted Mr Forbes and Mr Evans and damaged one of the cabs during an incident near the King Street Hotel.

Parker pleaded guilty to damaging one of the cab’s doors and Robertson pleaded guilty to damaging an internal light.

Their court appearance came one week after Scott Villa, 42, of Grinsell Street, Kotara, was convicted and fined for a racist attack on another cab driver and a month after Marks Point cabbie Paul Hull was king hit at Belmont.

All three incidents involved drunken offenders.

In a separate case yesterday where two men damaged a police car while drunk in the city, magistrate Mark Buscombe said: ‘‘Violence by young men affected by alcohol in Newcastle has reached epidemic proportions’’.

Outside the court, Mr Woods said his drivers had had enough and intended to support each other at future court appearances.

‘‘It’s all alcohol. I know the liquor accord are doing their best, but not enough is being done,’’ he said.

‘‘The taxis are here to provide a service and we’re not getting that support in that good men are being assaulted.’’

Mr Forbes said he took a week off driving after being assaulted and he was unable to work through the night.

‘‘I was fine up until it went dark on Sunday afternoon when I was working and then I just got all uptight and by 10o’clock I went home and said I’m not doing this,’’ he said.

Labor transport spokeswoman Penny Sharpe said the government needed to take action to protect drivers after eight cabbies were assaulted across the state since March.

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