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Bafta-winning Misfits actress Lauren Socha sentenced for racist attack on taxi driver


A taxi driver said 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.

Married Mr Iqbal, 52, was in the city's Crown Court today where Socha pleaded guilty to racially aggravated assault by beating, and said he had never experienced such abuse in his 22 years as a taxi driver.

He said: "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 went on: "I've been doing this job for 20 years and I've never been put in that kind of situation before, so it was really upsetting."

He played reporters the recording he made on his mobile phone of her eight-minute rant, littered with swear words and racist remarks.

Socha, who appeared in court wearing no make-up, with her dark hair piled into a bun on top of her head, and in a black dress and cream fur jacket, originally denied the assault but changed her plea to guilty today.

She sat in the dock and wiped away tears as details of her case were discussed.

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

She added: "When heavily in drink and pumped up you chose to express yourself in that despicable way."

Socha, of Meadowgrass Close in Littleover, Derby, won best supporting actress at the Baftas in 2011 for her Misfits role, the only prize for the comedy drama about superhero teen delinquents which had led the shortlist with four nominations.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Iqbal, who has lived in the UK since 1970, has two children and works for Chad Cars, said the experience had left him incredibly upset and wary.

"It made me feel absolutely terrible.

"I'm extra careful now whenever I pick anybody up in my taxi.

"It's left me really distraught."

Socha 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.

As she left court she said she would not talk to reporters but said: "Of course I care," when asked if she was concerned by what she had done to Mr Iqbal.

Her mother, Kathleen Lyons, spoke on her behalf, saying: "She's very, very sorry for all the distress she's caused to Mr Iqbal and his family.

"She's grateful to the courts for giving her the opportunity to put this behind her and move on with her life and her career.

"This isn't like Lauren, anyone that knows Lauren will tell you that this is so out of character.

"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."

Judge Watson said the racial aspect of the incident was so serious it crossed the custody threshold when considering sentence, even though she would suspend it.

She told Socha, who put her head in her hands as the judge spoke to her: "Derby, like any multicultural city or town, cannot tolerate such victimisation of one part of its community.

"Society simply cannot accept and tolerate such racist comments even if they are said while heavily intoxicated and bitterly regretted once sober."

The court heard that Socha had been drinking wine and lager in the Abbey pub in Darley Abbey from 5pm until 2am before the incident happened.

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.

Describing the chain of events, he said he picked Socha and her friend up from Darley Abbey on the night of the assault.

He 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.

He said: "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.

Janine Smith, senior district crown prosecutor at CPS East Midlands said: "Lauren Socha has at last pleaded guilty to racially aggravated common assault in the face of overwhelming evidence against her.

"Her behaviour that night last October was just shameful, and not what we should expect from someone in the public eye.

"Racism and violence are completely unacceptable and the law protects people from this kind of abuse. I hope that this case will make people sit up and take notice that, no matter who you are, if you become racially abusive or violent, you are likely to find yourself facing prosecution."