A MAN who robbed a taxi driver at knifepoint has been jailed for more than four years.

Karl Barnes, who at the age of 23 has already racked up 45 criminal convictions, was on bail when he carried out the robbery in Middlesbrough, high on drink and drugs.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the victim, a Romanian man who had brought his family to the UK to find work, was called a “Paki” and was now too scared to carry on as a taxi driver.

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Barnes armed himself with a knife he had taken from a house, pointing it at the chest of the driver to rob him of £130 takings and his mobile phone along with other items.

The incident on January 30 this year happened at about 12.40am in Coulthard Court, South Bank, after the driver had pulled up to collect a fare.

Barnes, of Upper Princess Street, South Bank, initially denied the robbery, saying he was at home at the time, but was picked out in a police identity parade.

He admitted robbery and possessing an offensive weapon.

Jo Pasfield, mitigating, said: “At the time of the offence he was struggling with his drug use and alcohol intake and a certain level of anxiety and depression.

“He expresses genuine remorse and regret.”

Recorder Mark McKone contrasted Barnes’ lifestyle with that of the victim, who he said worked long hours to provide for his wife and young daughter.

He told Barnes: “You have never worked and funded your lifestyle, including drug taking and drinking, by stealing.

“You are still only 23 and you are wasting your life in prison.”

The Recorder detailed the defendant’s criminal past including a conviction in 2006 for carrying an axe in a public place, a robbery in which a shopkeeper was threatened with a knife, and a three-year jail sentence for two offences of robbery in 2010.

He also said there were aggravating features in the case, describing the victim as a public servant who was vulnerable and noting the attack took place late at night.

Barnes received four years, three months for the robbery and a 21-month concurrent jail sentence for possessing an offensive weapon.

He was also warned he would receive a longer period in custody if he was returned to court for a similar offence again.