Misfits star gets suspended jail sentence for race attack in taxi

A taxi driver said yesterday he has been left “distraught” after a drunk Bafta-winning actress racially abused him and punched him when he picked her up in his cab.

Misfits star Lauren Socha, 21, who won a Bafta for her role as Kelly Bailey in the Channel 4 TV series, assaulted Sakander Iqbal in Derby city centre after a nine-hour pub drinking session in the early hours of October 1.

She had been drinking wine and lager from 5pm until 2am before getting into his taxi to go home and launching an abusive rant, which he recorded on a mobile phone, after questioning the direction he was travelling.

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Mr Iqbal, of Rosehill Street in Normanton, said she was in the back of his taxi when she started abusing him and leaned over to punch him on the left side of his face.

He said he picked Socha and her friend up from Darley Abbey and dropped her friend off before making his way to Littleover to drop Socha off when she started saying he was taking her the wrong way.

“On the way back, because she’d had a bit to drink, because her senses weren’t right, she goes to me: ‘Where are you taking me, you should have gone right there’ and I said: ‘I’m taking you home, I know what I’m doing’, and she just lost it.

“She started calling me all sorts of names under the sun and I decided to try and find some police,

“While I was doing that she punched me from the back.

“I stopped my car, I called the police and the police came and arrested her.”

She accepted she racially abused Mr Iqbal but said she used a “finger prod” and not a punch.

Mark van der Zwart, defending Socha, said: “Whether it was a punch or whether it was a prod, the assault happened and the very severely aggravating feature is accepted by her.”

He added that she felt remorse for what she had done and hoped that her acceptance and guilty plea would allow her to move on and not lose her career.

Socha originally denied racially aggravated assault by beating but changed her plea to guilty yesterday and sat in the dock, wiping away tears.

Judge Hilary Watson sentenced her to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and said: “Your conduct on that night was despicable and Mr Iqbal rightly brought it to the attention of the police and then the courts.”

Socha, of Meadowgrass Close in Littleover, Derby, was told by the judge she must carry out 80 hours of community service, pay £450 to Mr Iqbal in compensation and pay £750 court costs.

Judge Watson said the racial aspect of the incident was so serious it crossed the custody threshold when considering sentence.

She told Socha, who put her head in her hands as the judge added: “Society simply cannot accept and tolerate such racist comments even if they are said while heavily intoxicated and bitterly regretted once sober.”

Mr Iqbal, 52, who has lived in the Uk since 1970, was in the Crown Court yesterday and later told reporters he had never experienced such abuse in his 22 years as a taxi driver and played a recording made on his mobile phone.

“She called me a P***, a dirty b****** and said: ‘You’re Asian, f*** off back to where you came from.’

“She said: ‘Do you know who I am? I’ll have your family lifted’.”

He added. “It’s left me really distraught.”

As she left court Socha said she would not talk to reporters but her mother, Kathleen Lyons, spoke on her behalf, saying: “It’s an awful incident that happened and nobody should have been put through what Mr Iqbal was put through on that night.

“She takes full responsibility for her actions and she’s deeply sorry for this.”