Bee-Line … not aware of driver’s past
A SCARBOROUGH Private Hire driver was sentenced yesterday for sexually assaulting two female passengers.
Michael Fletcher, 40, of Trafalgar Square, was handed a six-month jail sentence – but walked free from York Crown Court because of time he had already spent in custody.
Judge Michael Mettyear said: “These women thought they were safe getting in to a taxi.
“Women should be able to get in to a taxi without feeling someone is going to take advantage of them while they on their own.
“You were in a position of trust.”
The court heard that Fletcher, who was working for Scarborough-based Bee-line Radio Cars at the time, sexually assaulted his first victim, a woman in her early 20s, on April 6 last year.
Fletcher had initially denied the two charges of sexual assault, but changed his pleas to guilty on the day his trial was due to begin.
Tony Kelbrick, prosecuting, said: “The woman decided to get a taxi back from work.
“She went to get in the car and the defendant said ‘what do you think of my sexy car?’
“During the journey he was very chatty which she found rather strange.”
Fletcher said to the woman: “I bet you are very experienced. I bet you have been with lots of boys.”
He then asked the woman if she was seeing anyone, to which she replied ‘Yes’.
The driver then patted her on her leg before pulling up just short of her home, and asked the woman to go for a drink with him. She refused his offer.
Fletcher then said: “I know you are seeing someone but what’s to stop us being friends? You deserve to be taken out by me.”
He then asked for the woman’s phone number, gave her his card and said she would not be allowed out of the car until she promised to call him.
He then tried to kiss the victim after putting his arm over the woman’s shoulders, and said: “You have very lovely hair and eyes.”
The woman got out of the car and reported the incident to the police.
Three days later, Fletcher assaulted his second victim, a woman in her 40s, who he picked up from her workplace in Scarborough.
Mr Kelbrick said: “He was talking to her about his teeth, which she thought was odd. He continued to touch her leg and at one point grabbed hold of her knee.”
Fletcher dropped the woman off at her home, and she went inside to get money to pay the fare.
When she returned and got back in the car, Fletcher asked if anyone was inside the home. When the woman said no he replied: “Are you going to invite me in for coffee?” and blocked her from getting out of the cab.
He then grabbed her neck and tried to kiss the woman. When the woman swore at Fletcher and said “what are you doing?” he said “alright” and she left.
The court heard that Fletcher had convictions for burglary in 1988, battery in 2003, 2005 and 2006 and a conviction for assault occasioning actual bodily harm in 2004.
Glen Parsons, mitigating, said that his client’s personality had changed after he was injured in a car accident in 2002.
He said Fletcher had had to re-learn what constituted appropriate behaviour and normal social parameters.
Judge Mettyear added: “What you did was unacceptable. You tried to come on to these women and tried to make yourself attractive to them. They did not find you attractive in any way.
“It was awful for these women to go to the safety of a taxi and for this to happen, but these were not the worst sexual offences.”
A Sexual Offences Protection Order, prohibiting Fletcher from driving taxis or cabs containing female passengers for five years, was also put in place.
STORY EXTRA: Carolyn Conlon, owner of Bee-line Radio Cars, said the company had been unaware of Fletcher’s criminal record and that he had been sacked by the firm as soon as he was arrested.
Fletcher was granted a licence by Scarborough Council three years after he was given a suspended jail sentence for assault.