South Yorkshire Police has apologised to a taxi driver and reopened their hate crime investigation after Tell MAMA raised concerns about the unexpected closure of the case on their behalf.

On June 14, the taxi driver, who has agreed to have his story told anonymously, described the threatening and racist behaviour of a man who, when carrying an open bottle of alcohol, confronted the driver over his face mask.

The man, who was not a passenger, asked the driver: “Why are you f****** wearing a mask for?” to which the driver replied, in a calm manner, that he was wearing it due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as the man continued to be abusive, and using racist language like “P*ki”.

As the driver manoeuvred his vehicle to leave, which required a temporary pause to change gear, the racist male threw his bottle of alcohol towards the driver, as its contents splashed over both driver and passengers.

Speaking to Tell MAMA, the taxi driver described how the man had also punched his car and had not been able to drive off when he did, that the bottle may have been used as a weapon to cause him harm.

The police were informed of the attack when it proved safe for the driver to stop. A call handler took corroborative statements from the driver and the female passenger.

No officer, however, had followed up, so he began making enquiries.

But the update was unexpected: police had closed the report, as witnesses were now unwilling to provide evidence, which left the taxi driver disheartened given the physical evidence in his vehicle and his call to the police.

The taxi driver is self-employed and due to the alcohol present in the interior of his vehicle meant that he was unable to work for the rest of that evening. And, given some of the alcohol had been consumed before the attack, he feared the spread of coronavirus.

After approaching Tell MAMA for assistance, and, after providing written consent, our service requested that senior officers at South Yorkshire Police review the report which has now resulted in it reopening, and the police sent it to the Crown Prosecution Service to review.

Tell MAMA has continued to highlight the vulnerability taxi drivers face, in forms of violence, racist, and discriminatory remarks. A recent report on Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred in North East England, co-authored with academics from Newcastle University and Northumbria University, includes two focus groups with Muslim men and Muslim women, one of whom is a taxi driver.

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