A MAN at a “low ebb” was said to have “played with the lives” of a taxi driver and his passenger in a drunken road rage incident, a court heard.

Stuart Porteous deliberately drove into the taxi having undercut him and then pulled up in front, blocking the road.

Described as appearing, “off his head” through drink, he then got out of his Saab vehicle, and approached the badly damaged taxi, asking the shaken driver: “Are you happy with that?”

Durham Crown Court heard in response the driver called Porteous, “a f***ing idiot” and said to him: “You could have killed us.”

Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, said the taxi driver was carrying a fare from Newcastle to Fencehouses, at 5am last March 25.

Mr Dryden said he first encountered the Saab as it swerved and clipped the kerb, near Durham County Cricket Club’s ground in Chester-le-Street.

The driver carefully overtook the Saab approaching Lumley Castle, but Porteous then undercut him and clipped the side of the taxi, before stopping ahead on The Golf Course Road.

The taxi passenger was so fearful that he got out and ran the last 20 minutes of the way home.

Mr Dryden said Porteous concluded the episode by spinning his car round and driving into the taxi’s front passenger side, activating the air-bag.

Such was the force that the taxi was written off, leaving the self-employed driver out of business for a while and out of pocket.

He later went to a walk-in clinic with whiplash-type injuries.

When police reached the scene, Porteous was slurring his words, with a heavy smell of alcohol.

He claimed someone else, whose name he did not know, had been driving and he was merely a sleeping passenger.

But the car keys were found in his pocket and he was arrested.

He was confrontational at the police station, twice refusing to give a breath specimen.

In interview he maintained he was not driving, but both the taxi driver and passenger separately picked him out on identity parades.

Porteous, 41, of Elm Court, Whickham, finally admitted dangerous driving and failing to provide a breath specimen at a plea hearing, in late November.

Peter Sabiston, for Porteous, said there was nothing he could say in mitigation for what was an “abhorrent” incident.

But he said it was out of character due to the spiral in his personal circumstances, having seen his bathroom fitting business fold and his relationship with his partner break-up.

Mr Sabiston said Porteous often slept in the car and had drunk heavily that night, so only drove to move to a parking spot to avoid police attention.

Jailing him for 17 months and one week, Judge Jonathan Carroll told Porteous it was, “a severe example of road rage”.

He added: “You were playing with people’s lives while absolutely off your head with drink.”

Porteous was also banned from driving for 21 months.