A JUDGE has warned that anybody who assaults people providing public service like taxi drivers in the north Down and Ards area will face tough sentences.
District Judge Mark Hamill was speaking as he said a man who punched a taxi driver in the face could receive a sentence of a year.
John Darren Caskey (50), of no fixed abode in Bangor, appeared via video link from prison at Newtownards Magistrates' Court.
He pleaded guilty to assault; causing criminal damage to the taxi driver's glasses and causing criminal damage to a police cell van.
He also admitted attempting to damage the taxi in Newtownards and possession of Diazepam and Pregabalin on December 13 last year.
A prosecutor said police received a report of a taxi driver being assaulted and when they arrived they saw him punch the driver's side of the taxi.
At one stage Caskey, who had 119 previous convictions, leapt on the bonnet of the taxi and when arrested he spat several times inside a police cell van.
Judge Hamill said the taxi driver had been assaulted whilst performing a "public service".
Reading from the taxi driver's statement, the judge said four men had got into the taxi.
They were "under the influence" and asked to be taken to Newtownards and then asked to go to an off-licence.
Three of the men went to the off-licence and Caskey remained and told the driver: "I would call the police now, expect the worse".
Judge Hamill said the taxi driver's "ordeal lasted something like 30 minutes".
The judge said it had been an "appalling" incident and adjourned the case to June 29 for a pre-sentence report.
Judge Hamill said Caskey, who was further remanded in custody, could expect a one year sentence for "inflicting this on someone who is trying to provide a public service".
The judge added: "Anybody who behaves like this in this area towards someone who is providing a public service can expect the worst".