Police probe Colne taxi attack that led to strike

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A TAXI driver who was assaulted on Saturday night in Colne has said he and other drivers fear for their safety. Abdul Ghafoor (28) was brutally attacked by a passenger following a dispute over a fare, sparking a protest by other drivers.

Cabbies across the town staged a four-hour strike, protesting over the way the incident had been dealt with by police.

Mr Ghafoor, who works for Eagle Star Taxis, said the police did not seem to take the incident seriously, refusing to take a statement from him and did not make any arrests. He said he had refused to take the passenger home as he was drunk and would not pay his fare beforehand.

Mr Ghafoor said the police arrived minutes later and spoke to the man but said they did not need a statement as they would study CCTV footage of the incident.

“They just gave me back my mobile which I had lost when I fell and checked my car for tax and its number plates and that the tyres were good.”

Mr Ghafoor was later taken to Airedale Hospital with injuries to his face and legs.

He said his fellow taxi drivers were angry at the way the situation was dealt with and decided to strike.

“There have been a few incidents like this, I think the drivers just want to be taken seriously. The taxi drivers are not happy now - they worry about their safety. I am worried about going back to work.”

Police have made assurances they are taking the assault seriously and are making inquiries.

Sgt. Damian Pemberton said: “The police turned up and took details but the drivers were not happy with the way we dealt with it so went on strike between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. Following a discussion with the local taxi association the situation was diffused and the strike stopped.

“Police are investigating the assault on Mr Ghafoor and are taking the incident very seriously. We have spoken to the offending parties and are making further inquiries.”

Mr Mohammed Akram, chairman of Pendle Taxi Operators Association, has said drivers should not be concerned over their safety. “We are working with police and things are moving forward. There have been problems in the past with drivers being abused but we are holding monthly meetings with the police and things have been getting better. There is the odd incident of stone throwing but that is the risk drivers take.

“The police are looking into the assault over the weekend and I am sure they will find the perpetrator and justice will be done. Things are back to normal now and there should be no more problems.”

Coun. Paul White has condemned the actions of the taxi drivers, who left revellers stranded in the town. “While violence towards any taxi driver is absolutely unacceptable, and I would think the majority of the population would think that too, a knee-jerk strike left residents who were enjoying the Colne nightlife in danger when they had not been involved in the incident at all.

“People were left without the opportunity to make alternative plans, meaning they had to walk home which is dangerous as you don’t know who might be around at that time. The taxi firms let down their loyal customers, many of who use the taxis week on week.

“By the same token, no member of the public should be abusing drivers in any way whatsoever, these people are providing a valuable service to our area.”