Taxi driver ordered to pay the council’s costs of £5,000
A taxi driver who refused to transport guide dogs and their visually impaired owners in his vehicle and had his hackney carriage driver licence revoked by East Devon District Council has lost his appeal against the decision.
The council successfully defended the appeal bought by Syed Al Miah and heard at Exeter Magistrates Court recently and Mr Miah was ordered to pay the council’s costs of £5,000.
The court was told that in May, the council’s Licensing Sub-committee met to decide whether Mr Miah of Birchwood Avenue, Weston Super Mare, was a fit and proper person to continue holding his licence. The council had received a complaint about the taxi driver from two visually impaired people who said that he had refused to transport them and their guide dogs in his vehicle after they had requested a taxi to take them from a hotel to the train station. The incident happened in December 2017 and the court was told that when the taxi driver arrived at the hotel, he informed hotel staff and the two customers that he would not take the dogs and drove away.
During an investigation into the complaint by the council, officers established he had not operated as a taxi driver in East Devon at any point since obtaining his licence from the district council in 2016, but instead had worked from North Somerset where the incident occurred.
The Licensing Sub-committee decided to revoke the taxi driver’s licence as they felt he was no longer considered as a fit and proper person to hold the licence due to his actions. The decision was based on two issues - his refusal to transport the customers and their assistance dogs and the fact that he had provided details when submitting his applications to obtain his licences that he would have known were inaccurate or untrue by stating that he intended to work in East Devon when in fact he had always intended to work elsewhere.
Councils have legal powers to suspend or revoke the licence of a taxi driver on certain grounds and all councils granting licences to taxi drivers need to be satisfied that the person is fit and proper. The Equality Act 2010 sets out the legal duty of taxi drivers to carry assistance dogs ensuring they do not discriminate against any person because of disability and to carry a disabled person's dog by allowing it to remain with the person and not to make any additional charge for doing so. Refusal to carry registered assistance dogs without an exemption certificate is a strict liability offence.
Exeter magistrates found in favour of the council and the decision it had made to take Mr Miah’s licence away. During the legal process he had changed his story on several occasions. At interview he said he was scared of the dogs, at the licensing hearing he stated that for safety reasons he believed his vehicle not to be big enough, despite it being licensed to carry five passengers, and at the appeal hearing he claimed that when arriving at the hotel he wasn’t sure if he had attended the correct job.
Following the court hearing, Cllr Steve Hall, Chairman of East Devon District Council’s Licensing Sub-committee, said:
The council recognises the serious nature of these allegations and the impact upon those individuals being refused transport. I’m pleased to say that the magistrates agreed with our approach and we will not hesitate to defend further appeals of this nature to ensure that the public receives a fair service. The safety of our public is paramount.