A SELF-EMPLOYED builder has been acquitted of racially abusing a York taxi driver.

Paul Leadley denied a racially aggravated threatening behaviour charge against Joynul Al-Ameen after the taxi ride on November 28 last year.

Leadley admitted using threatening behaviour as well as making off without payment at an earlier hearing, but the prosecution had not accepted the former plea, prompting a trial at York Magistrates Court.

Philip Morris, prosecuting, said Leadley and his friend Craig King had got into Mr Al-Ameen's taxi in St Saviourgate, York at around 8.45pm after drinking in the city that afternoon.

Both men accepted they had drunk around six pints of beer.

Mr Morris said Leadley had sworn at Mr Al-Ameen, calling him a "Muslim suicide bomber" and subjected him to "the most foul racist abuse".

Leadley made similar comments throughout the journey, prompting Mr Al-Ameen to stop the taxi at one point, Mr Morris said.

After being dropped off near Huntington Working Men's Club, he said: "Mr Leadley went back to the taxi, opened the driver's door and subjected the complainant to verbal and racist abuse with a clenched fist."

Mr Al-Ameen said he was sworn at and racially abused by Leadley.

"He said 'you don't belong here, you should go back to Bangladesh'," Mr Al-Ameen claimed.

"I was very nervous, I didn't know what to do," he added.

Julian Tanikal, defending, said Mr Al-Ameen's evidence in court was very different to the statement he had given the police the day after the incident.

"Your account of what happened that day has got exaggerated every time you told it," he said.

Mr Tanikal added: "Your evidence is at odds with itself."

Leadley admitted that he had got angry in the taxi, but repeatedly denied there had been any racial element to his comments.

The argument started after Leadley asked Mr Al-Ameen for his views on the recent Paris bombings,

"He said 'the West have brought it upon themselves'," Leadley claimed when asked for Mr Al-Ameen's response.

Chairman of the bench Clive Harwood said: "We are fairly sure the incident happened more in the way that Mr Al-Ameen described it."

But having considered the evidence, the magistrates felt there was "an element of doubt" to it.

Mr Harwood said: "For this reason our duty is to acquit you of this offence."

Mr Tanikal said Leadley had no convictions prior to this incident.

He said: "He always admitted that the argument got heated and he used language that fell way below the acceptable standard.

"It is something that this gentleman deeply regrets. It has already caused him a great deal of personal trauma."

Leadley was handed a community order including an eight-week curfew from 9pm to 6am.

King had already received the same penalty after admitting the threatening behaviour and making off without payment charges at an earlier hearing, where he was ordered to pay £105.50 compensation and £85 costs.

Mr Harwood told Leadley: "We have considered that your part in this was greater."

Leadley was ordered to pay £105.50 compensation, £85 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.