Taxi driver 'responsible for fatal fall by passenger'

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The Independent Online

A taxi driver killed a teenager when he drove off with his cab door open, a court heard today.

Aaron Todd, 18, died when black cab driver Paul Stephenson accelerated away from a kerb in the early hours of March 29 last year.

The teenager was the last of five friends to leave Stephenson's Fiat Scudo after he stopped on Hedworth Lane in Jarrow, South Tyneside, to allow one of them to be sick.

Stephenson, 60, of St Hilda Street, South Shields, South Tyneside, believed the friends were attempting to "do a runner" without paying the £8.40 fare, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

But he did not realise Aaron was still on board as he drove away with the passenger sliding door still open, he told police.

The teenager, of Kirkstone Avenue, Jarrow, suffered fatal head injuries as he exited the cab and died in hospital six days later.

Prosecutor Peter Gair told a jury Stephenson's view of the rear of his car was obscured by pillars separating the driver's and passenger areas.

But he said that as a taxi driver with more than 30 years experience, he should have made sure his cab was empty before driving away.

He told the court: "The crown's case is that somebody who takes young drunk men in their vehicle at night has a duty of care to ensure the safety of those passengers.

"By driving off with the sliding door open without being in a position to know whether anyone was in the rear of that vehicle was such as to put anyone who was in the rear of that vehicle in danger of personal injury.

"That person was Aaron and that injury resulted in him dying.

"It is impossible to say whether Aaron jumped or fell out but having exited the taxi as it moved away he suffered fatal head injuries.

"He should never have been in a position where he was in a moving vehicle with the door open.

"The defendant should have known that and is therefore responsible for his death."

Aaron's friend Daniel Smith, 19, of Crieff Grove, Jarrow, said the group had been drinking in South Shields celebrating a friend's birthday before they were picked up.

They asked to be driven to the Greyhound pub in Jarrow, but told Stephenson to stop the cab when one of their group felt sick.

Mr Smith said he was standing with one foot one the kerb and one in the taxi when Stephenson suddenly put his foot down, driving off with Aaron still on board.

Stephenson denies causing death by dangerous driving and an alternative charge of causing death by careless driving.

The trial, which is expected to last four days, continues tomorrow.