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Faversham taxi driver James Wilkinson avoids jail after holding journalist prisoner in London cab

By KentOnline reporter

A cabbie who held a Channel 4 business correspondent in the back of his taxi before knocking her down in a row over a heater has been spared jail.

Journalist Helia Ebrahimi, 39, was trapped in the back of the black cab driven by James Wilkinson, 57, from Faversham, after a row over the heating on March 22 this year, the day of the Westminster terror attack.

Ms Ebrahimi told Wilkinson - branded a "blustering bully" by the judge - that she wouldn't pay her fare because the heater in the back of his 12 year old cab was blowing cold air on her.

James Wilkinson. Picture: SWNS.
James Wilkinson. Picture: SWNS.

In response he turned the cab round to take her back to ITN's office, where he picked her up, and refused to let her out despite her repeatedly pleading with him to stop the cab.

When he finally dropped her off she tried to take a picture of his driver identification details from the inside, but Wilkinson drove off, hitting her and causing her to fall to the ground.

She suffered bruising to her leg and hip, and an old back injury flared up, while her £600 jeans were torn.

Grandfather Wilkinson denied one count of false imprisonment and one count of dangerous driving, but was convicted of both charges following a two day trial.

The jury at Blackfriars Crown Court took just one hour and 33 minutes to reach its verdict.

The cabbie is accused of failing to let the woman out of his vehicle. Stock image.
The cabbie is accused of failing to let the woman out of his vehicle. Stock image.

He was sentenced to four months in jail for each count to run concurrently, suspended for 12 months.

Sentencing Wilkinson, Judge David Richardson said it was a "trivial" argument over the heating, but the driver "took her against her will" to where he picked her up from.

Ms Ebrahimi made repeated requests for him to let her out of the cab, and even filmed the last part of the journey, desperately asking 13 times for him to stop the vehicle.

The judge said: "We trust our black cab drivers to keep their temper and to obey the law. You committed these offences against a woman on her own, in your cab during the evening.

"You are a blustering bully. You would never have behaved that way if it had been a man in your cab. You took advantage and bullied someone standing up to you about the condition of your cab.

Blackfriars Crown Court
Blackfriars Crown Court

"An aggravating factor is also you complete lack of remorse and your ridiculous allegations the video had been tampered with."

The judge accepted the conviction and sentence would mean the loss of his job, which he has had for 20 years, and that he had no previous convictions.

However he said he would order compensation regarding the "frightening" period of false imprisonment and said: "In this country we take loss of liberty very seriously."

Wilkinson was ordered to pay £1,000 compensation, and to carry out 210 hours of unpaid work, as well as being disqualified from driving for two years.

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