A crown court judge said that taxi drivers providing an essential service to the community at night did a very dangerous job - and pledged that they would be protected by the courts.

Judge Niclas Parry was speaking at Mold Crown Court as he jailed a man who while subject to a suspended prison sentence assaulted a taxi driver in his vehicle.

Defendant Terrence Sweetman, 44, admitted assaulting taxi driver Peter Thomas on March 5 after he picked him up outside his then home in Coronation Close, Bodelwyddan, with the intention of taking him to Rhyl.

But in view of his behaviour the driver asked him to get out and Sweetman grabbed his head from behind and scratched him.

Judge Parry said that being a taxi driver at night was a dangerous occupation.

"Taxi drivers who provide an essential service to the public will be protected," he said.

It was a sustained assault on a taxi driver, injuries were caused, and the defendant had acted under the influence of alcohol.

"The fact that this was an attack on a public servant is an aggravating feature," he said.

Sweetman was on a suspended sentence at the time for "a quite disgraceful racially aggravated" public order offence.

He was jailed for a total of nine months - three months for the assault and six months of the suspended sentence were activated consecutively.

Prosecuting barrister Maria Massellis said that Mr Thomas, a self-employed taxi driver working for Coastline Taxis, was directed to the defendant's home at 9 p.m..

The defendant got in and sat behind the driver, which made him feel uncomfortable.

Sweetman smelt strongly of alcohol and as a result of the taxi driver's concerns he asked for £15 up-front.

The defendant did not take kindly to the request, responded with verbal abuse and waved notes in the face of the taxi driver before quickly snatching them back.

During an exchange, he threw a £10 and £5 note to the front of he car which Mr Thomas retrieved and the journey began.

But within less than 100 yards the defendant became abusive, calling him names and swearing.

Mr Thomas stopped the vehicle and told him to get out but the defendant put both arms around the head rest and took hold of his head.

He scratched him causing immediate pain.

The victim feared for his life, believed he may be robbed, and returned the fare to the defendant and told him to get out.

He then drove to the Co-op at Bodelwyddan, to seek assistance, and was described as being shocked and distressed.

The victim had various scratches to the face and ear, a cut under the nose and he had neck pain.

Arrested the defendant claimed that he had only caused some of the injuries and alleged that others had been self-inflicted in order to frame him.

Mr Thomas was a former military man who had been surprised by his reaction to what happened and had questioned whether he would continue to work as a taxi driver.

The suspended sentence was imposed last year as a result of comments he made while drunk to staff at The Premier Store in Bodelwyddan in April of last year.

Sweetman denied being a racist and described himself as being "wrecked" at the time.

Defending barrister Sarah Yates said that it was appreciated that the court would not be impressed that he was back before the court for an offence of violence while on a suspended prison sentence.

He wanted to apologise to the court and to the taxi driver for his behaviour.

His main concern was that he had held a job for 12 years at a caravan park which would be lost if he went to custody.

He also lived at a different caravan park in Towyn and he feared he would also lose his home.

Miss Yates said that her client had not been to prison before.