A self-described "horrible and nasty" drunken assault on a taxi driver has landed a Tauranga man a sentence of community detention and community work.

Luke Joseph Priest, 27, who earlier pleaded guilty to common assault and wilful damage, was sentenced in the Tauranga District Court yesterday to six months community detention.

Priest told police he had no memory of the incident and after he watched the CCTV footage of the attack, described it as "horrible and nasty".

The police summary of facts revealed Priest got into a taxi with a friend on the corner of Harington St and Willow St about 3.30am on December 23.


Realising the taxi already had two passengers, Priest walked around to the driver's side and tried to drag the driver out.

They scuffled and Priest fell over, stood back up again, and assumed a fighting stance.

When the victim refused to fight him, Priest threatened him, saying, "Okay, you'll take us or I'll smash you."

Priest hopped into the back of the taxi, and his friend sat in the front.

Fearing for his safety, the taxi driver started driving. Priest continued being abusive and threatening. He punched the victim in the face four times and spat on him.

He also punched the taxi's stereo screen and broke it.

The taxi driver stopped in Bethlehem and Priest grabbed him in a choke hold hard enough to drag him down between the two front seats.

The driver managed to break free, and Priest and his friend got out of the taxi, swearing as they walked away.


The choke hold used was hard enough to make it hard for the driver to swallow food.

Judge Thomas Ingram said the fact Priest had been drinking did not excuse his behaviour.

Taxi drivers worked extremely hard to support and feed their families, the judge said.

"They don't deserve to have put up with this sort of drunken behaviour, Mr Priest, from clowns like you," Judge Ingram said.

He sentenced Priest to 120 hours community work and ordered him to pay $1500 reparation, including $500 to the taxi driver for emotional harm.

The judge said he accepted Priest was genuinely remorseful and wanted him to
track down the taxi driver to apologise in person.