A THUG who punched a taxi driver and stole his iPhone has been jailed for almost three years.

Matthew Bailey, of Lowndes Street, Heaton, was found guilty of robbery by a jury at Bolton Crown Court.

During the trial the court heard how the victim, Metro taxi driver Salim Umerji, picked up a group of four people including Bailey from Singleton Avenue, Horwich, at 1.30am on June 15, and took them to Tesco at Middlebrook.

While the three men went inside to buy a crate of beer, Mr Umerji showed the remaining woman photographs of his children on his iPhone 5.

After returning to the car, the group asked initially to be taken back to Singleton Avenue, but then changed their minds and asked Mr Umerji to stop at the end of Albert Street, Horwich.

There, Bailey got out of the car, punched the taxi driver in the head through an open window and grabbed his phone, worth £350.

As he was attacked, Mr Umerji’s foot caught on the accelerator pedal and the car shot forward, scraping along a wall.

Following the assault the group ran off down an alleyway and into a field.

Police later identified Bailey from CCTV footage at Tesco.

Bailey, who had denied robbery, will now serve two years and nine months at a young offenders institute.

A second defendant Andrew Abbott, aged 26, of Ormston Avenue, Heaton, was cleared of robbery.

Nick Astley, owner of Metro, said violence against taxi drivers was an ongoing problem.

He said: “It’s good to know that the courts are dealing with cases like this seriously.

“It’s particularly upsetting when it’s a young person behind the crime. Unless we send a message and a deterrent out, more and more young people will do it.

“Prevention is the key — ideally we don’t want anyone going to court.”