A “nasty and violent” thug who launched a vicious attack on a Blackpool taxi driver in a row over a £6.40 fare has been put behind bars.
And just months before that incident, a court was told how Thomas Curley had assaulted two other men with a broken bottle.
He was perfectly fine – and then he just turned
He has now been sentenced to three years and nine months’ jail by a judge at Preston Crown Court.
Today 50-year-old Gary Helm, the cabbie he assaulted, told how well-dressed and well-spoken Curley suddenly turned when the fare was discussed and launched the “mindless and unprovoked” attack on him.
Police said Curley, 23, had offered them no mitigation whatsoever for the brutal assault, while another taxi driver told of his disgust at the incident, and said he and his fellow drivers often face danger when on duty.
Curley, of Central Drive, Blackpool, pleaded guilty to a charge of inflicting grievous bodily harm, plus two others of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The court heard how shocked witnesses saw the thug repeatedly punching and kicking his victim as he lay unconscious on the ground.
Mr Helm suffered three separate fractures of his jaw in the attack – and fears he may now suffer permanent problems.
He said: “I got out of the car and that is pretty much all I can remember until I woke up in the ambulance. It was very nasty and he did a lot of damage.”
The attack on the driver happened after the defendant got into a vehicle at Blackpool’s Bank Hey Street taxi rank at around 6.45pm one evening in December and asked to be taken to Central Drive.
Mr Helm added: “He was sat next to me and he was talking to me no problem at all.
“He was not drunk, he was well dressed, she spoke well. He seemed like a nice guy.”
But when the cab got to Bloomfield Road,Curley then decided he wanted to be taken to Shaw Road inside, and asked if he could pay by credit card.
“I don’t have that facility and I said I could take him to a cash machine, but he said it had to be by card.
“Then he said he would buy me two chickens from Tesco instead.
“You get a sixth sense as a taxi driver when things are not right and this did not seem right.
“We got to Shaw Road and all I can remember is he did attack me in the car. He knocked my interior mirror off and I remember grabbing my phone.
“But I never got to use it. I got out of the car and that is all I remember. My jaw is still not right and will never be right.
“I have been doing this job 21 years and this is the first time this has happened.
“He was perfectly fine – and then he just turned.
“He’s never going to pay for what he has done. But it was totally unprovoked and he should not be on the streets.”
Karen Brooks, prosecuting at Preston Crown Court said both men had got out of the taxi and Curley started throwing punches.
Miss Brooks said: “The defendant was seen dancing round like in a shadow boxing style. The taxi driver tried to walk away, but was punched and he fell on to his back, banging his head. He doesn’t know what happened then.
“Witnesses saw the defendant then punching him about seven times in the face before kicking him in the body.
“The next thing the driver remembered was getting into an ambulance.”
An X-ray later showed he had a fracture in three places to his lower jaw. He was off work for nine days and may have lost up to £1,000 as it was the run-up to Christmas, the court heard.
The other two offences took place at a house party on Nuttall Road, Blackpool, in June.
He was arrested for those assaults following the taxi driver incident. During a row, Curley hit one man on the back of the head with a broken bottle before going on to hit another.
Another man was later jailed for his part in the attack.
Curley had previous offences of violence to his name and in May last year got a four months’ term for battery.
David Abbott, defending, said before the wounding of the taxi driver, Curley had been upset by the death of a man he regarded as a “grandfather figure”.
He said: “Upset by the death of his friend, he turned to drink. He thought he would be able to pay for the taxi.
“There is no excuse for his disgraceful behaviour.”
After the hearing, Det Con Andy Gilmour, the officer in charge of the case at Blackpool CID, told the The Gazette it was a good result to see Curley jailed.
He described the shocking incident as a “mindless, violent attack” on an “innocent member of the public”.
He added: “It was an unprovoked attack.
“The victim was punched, he fell and he was punched and kicked while he was on the ground.
“Curley attacked him while he was unconscious.
“It was a nasty, violent assault on an innocent member of the public.
“The victim suffered a broken jaw and was badly shaken by what happened.
“It was a mindless attack over the method of payment.
“Curley didn’t really co-operate during interviews, he just said no comment.
“There was no mitigation.”
Bill Lewtas, secretary of the Blackpool Licensed Taxi Operators Association, said: “This was an appalling and unprovoked attack on an innocent taxi driver.
“I understand the driver will have a permanent effect on his jaw.
“Taxi drivers are not obliged to take a card payment.
“Being a taxi driver has always been a dangerous job and it always will be.
“When you are journeying with people who are drunk they are more likely to attack.”
Mr Helm added that he wanted to thank the witness who saw the attack, adding: “I don;t know if it was a man or a woman but whoever it was identified him and I would like to thank them for helping me out.
“I have been wary since and there are times since when I have had problems with passengers but nothing like this. You just have to get on with it – it’s your job.”