A MAN launched a 'vicious' attack on a taxi driver - repeatedly punching and kicking him to the neck - after being asked to pay a £5.60 fare.

A sentencing Judge at Oxford Crown Court said Karim Belhimer's drunken onslaught on taxi driver Sohar Ali was at the 'top end' of offending.

The 29-year old, of Stanley Close, North Hinksey - who had already admitted one count of inflicting grievous bodily harm - sobbed throughout his sentencing hearing yesterday.

Outlining the case prosecutor Cathy Olliver said the violence happened in the early hours of February 17 last year.

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Belhimer got into a taxi at Hazel Road, Botley, together with two others at about 4.22am.

Ms Ollier said Belhimer 'was a nuisance from the start' and was 'dancing in the seat, refusing to wear a seat belt.'

As they travelled towards their destination of Girdlestone Road the others left leaving only Belhimer and the driver.

When he was asked to pay the full fare of £11.60 Belhimer, who had downed half a bottle or rum that night, instead handed over £6.

Mr Ali then asked for the remaining £5.60 and when Belhimer refused the taxi driver said he would call the police and took out his phone.

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It was this that sparked Belhimer into a rage and he grabbed the phone out of his hands and began kicking and punching him.

The 'repeated' attack detailed to the court included a punch which sent Mr Ali to the floor and two kicks to his neck while he was lying on the ground.

As the onslaught continued, the court heard, Mr Ali felt like he was losing consciousness and Belhimer told him he had a knife before dragging him to his feet.

At that moment the police arrived and the violence was quickly brought to an end and Mr Ali was rushed to the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Mr Ali's injuries included a fracture to his cheek bone, cuts and bleeding, as well as large swelling to one eye.

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In a victim personal statement Mr Ali later said he had lost confidence since the attack and that he had been left in fear of his assailant.

After his arrest Belhimer told police he had done nothing wrong and claimed Mr Ali had been the aggressor, despite him receiving no injuries.

In mitigation at the hearing Graham Blower said that his client's offending was fuelled by his alcoholism.

He added that there were also concerns over his mental state and said there was a suspicion he suffered from autism.

He added that since his arrest he had kicked his drinking habit.

Sentencing, Judge Peter Ross called the attack 'sustained and vicious' involving repeated punches and kicks.

He said: "Mr Ali was someone going about alone, doing a public service. The defendant was drunk.

"This is a case which is towards the top of the range."

Belhimer wept in the dock as he was jailed for 36 months.