Airman in court for taxi fare row

A YOUNG airman with an exemplary military record, including time spent in Afghanistan, has been fined for racially aggravated criminal damage.

Richard Whittingham, of Longfield Green, RAF Honington, pleaded guilty to a charge of racially aggravated criminal damage at Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

Whittingham, 23, was involved in an altercation with a taxi driver after a night out drinking in Bury with friends and fellow airmen, said Lesla Small, prosecuting.

The RAF gunner, who served a tour in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010 and was going to be promoted because he was so good with the local population, took offence after the taxi driver asked the group to pay their £20 fare before reaching Honington.

He shouted and swore at the driver even though he explained that it was company policy. When Whittingham got out of the car he slammed the door and kicked the car, said Miss Small.

Ian Graham, in mitigation, said that Whittingham was ‘extremely open, honest and remorseful’ and ‘could not recall anything’ from the incident after a night spent drinking. Mr Graham said that it was the first time Whittingham had drunk alcohol for three weeks due to work responsibilities and it was his first opportunity to ‘let his hair down’.

Whittingham, who is set for a medical examination for suspected post-traumatic stress, is ‘disgusted’ and ‘horrified’ at what happened. The airman, from 26 Squadron, could be discharged from the military for his behaviour.

Whittingham was ordered to pay £935.96 compensation for damage to the car, compensation of £200 to the driver and was fined £250. He was also ordered to pay £50 costs and £15 victim surcharge.