A TAXI passenger who attacked a driver as he tried to steal her phone has been jailed.
Shane Smith, 19, got in the front seat of the car when he and two friends were picked up in Quantock Place, Peterlee.
During the journey went on, the woman driver began to suspect they would run off without paying, because Smith seemed nervous.
As they reached their destination, she was told one of the men in the back would be paying, but Smith then punched her in the chest and tried to grab her phone, which was in a holder attached to the windscreen.
Lynsey Colling, prosecuting, told Durham Crown Court: “The men in the back asked if she was ok and she used the radio to call for assistance.
“Police arrived and could see she was upset and shocked and was crying.”
Smith was later picked out from an electronic identity parade, but when interviewed denied it was him and told detectives he “wouldn’t dream” of doing such a thing.
Smith, of Chester Place, Peterlee, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery last November.
In a statement, the driver said the attack left her shocked and fearful when picking up groups of men.
Stephen Thornton, mitigating, explained Smith had been drinking before the incident.
He asked Judge Colin Burns to offer a sentence which would allow him to continue his job.
He added: “This was a stupid attack by this defendant.
“It’s clear it was a frolic of his own and his friends played no part in it.
“Court is attended today by his father and uncle who are very disappointed by his actions on this day.”
Judge Burns said: “You used persistent physical force, quite severe physical force and sustained physical force as you repeatedly attempted to take this phone off her.
“As a result she has suffered emotionally and suffered some minor injuries.”
Smith, who has a previous conviction for assault, was sentenced to 15 months in a young offenders institution and told he must serve half in custody.