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Taxi driver may lose sight in eye after attack over £5 fare, court told

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The taxi driver was assaulted in Strabane

The taxi driver was assaulted in Strabane

The taxi driver was assaulted in Strabane

A taxi driver may be left partially blinded after a teenage passenger allegedly subjected him to a "barbaric" assault over a £5 fare, the High Court has heard.

Dylan McGrinder, 18, is accused of repeatedly kicking the man to the head during an alcohol-fuelled attack near Strabane, Co Tyrone in the early hours of January 13.

Prosecutors said the victim sustained a fractured jaw and has difficulty hearing in one ear.

He was also left with severe facial swelling and a footprint mark on his throat.

Although the full extent of his injuries remains unclear, a Crown lawyer disclosed: "Medical staff have continued concerns he may lose the sight in one eye."

McGrinder, of Glebe Gardens in Sion Mills, faces charges of causing grievous bodily harm with intent, criminal damage and making off without paying the £5 fare.

A judge was told he has no memory of carrying out the assault but accepts the victim's version of events.

The court heard McGrinder was picked up at Abercorn Square in Strabane and taken to Sion Mills after failing to obtain money from an ATM machine to pay for the journey.

He allegedly launched an attack when the taxi driver suggested going to a relative to obtain cash, punching him about the head and face.

McGrinder then continued to kick him while he was on the ground, according to the prosecution.

At one point the victim managed to get back into his car and close the door just before a wing mirror was kicked off.

McGrinder told police he had drunk 10 bottles of beer and spent £80 on vodka in two bars in Strabane.

He said he remembered getting a taxi and realising he had no money, as well as stopping at a cash machine and telling the driver to return in the morning for payment.

Despite having no recollection of the actual assault, he accepted it was probably the victim's blood on his clothes and trainers.

Opposing bail, prosecution counsel contended: "The aggression shown in this attack on a defenceless individual already working in a high-risk job over something as trivial as a £5 taxi fare would suggest the applicant, especially with drink on board, does not have the ability to control himself."

A defence barrister acknowledged it was "an outrageous incident" involving an alleged attack on a man doing his best to get his drunken client home.

"Whilst he has no recollection of the assault he did not seek to contradict in any way (what the complainant said)," he added.

"This is a young man finding it almost impossible to rationalise his behaviour on the night and the results that has had."

Adjourning the bail application, Lord Justice McCloskey said further guarantees were needed from proposed sureties.

He also stated: "The injured party in this case was the victim of a barbaric and prolonged assault.

"He found himself utterly defenceless in the circumstances, and but for his entirely fortuitous ability to get back in the taxi and close the door he may well have lost his life."

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