A TAXI driver was robbed of a wad of notes by a passenger who cut short his journey home before grabbing the money, a court heard.

The driver and his passenger, Adam John Lattimer, agreed on a £30 pre-paid fee for the fare from Newcastle to Pelton Fell, near Chester-le-Street, in the early hours of Sunday, March 2.

But, Durham Crown Court was told, following a dispute over the route taken by the driver, Lattimer asked him to pull over in Pelton Lane, Chester-le-Street, less than a mile from the intended destination.

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As the meter read £19.80, Lattimer asked for £10 change.

Sam Faulks, prosecuting, said the driver reached into his pocket and produced some notes, but, before he could take out a £10, Lattimer grabbed the money.

A tussle followed in which the driver was dragged from the passenger side door.

The driver said he was punched and kicked by Lattimer, who then fled the scene with the money.

Although shaken, the driver was not physically injured, but his Skoda Octavia was dented.

The incident was reported and a short time later a police officer approached Lattimer, who matched the description given by the driver.

He was on foot, on Pelton Fell Road, Chester-le-Street, at 3.15am, and initially told the officer he was walking home from Newcastle.

Mr Faulks said Lattimer asked the officer: “Is it what happened in the taxi?”

He reached into his jacket and handed £75 to the policeman, who completed his arrest.

The court heard that Lattimer admitted taking the money, but, asked about the alleged punch and kick, he said he was, “not a fighter”, and described it as, “more of a tussle”.

He told police he had been drinking a mix of beer and spirits in Newcastle, but on his way home there was a dispute with the driver over the £10 ‘change’.

Lattimer, 22, of Hazel Grove, Chester-le-Street, admitted robbery at his first appearance at crown court on Thursday.

Jonathan Devlin, mitigating, said the defendant has no previous convictions, is in work and is “highly remorseful” over events on that aborted taxi journey.

Mr Devlin added that Lattimer had offered to pay compensation to the driver.

Imposing a four-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, Judge Peter Kelson ordered Lattimer to pay £250 compensation, plus £535 costs and £80 statutory surcharge.

Judge Kelson said he did seem to regret his actions and told him he did not expect to see him before the court in future.