17/05/2019 - Permalink

Private hire driver found guilty after failing to take assistance dog in vehicle

Related topics: Public protection

Following a trial at Telford Magistrates’ Court on Monday 13 May 2019, a private hire driver was found guilty of an offence under the Equality Act 2010 for refusing to take an assistance dog on a pre-booked journey.

The Court heard that on 3 August 2018, Mr Hilton booked a private hire vehicle to collect him and his friend Mr Kane, who is deaf and uses an assistance dog called ‘Harley’, from the Royal British Legion in Dawley. Mr Hilton gave evidence in court stating that he told the private hire company, Diamond Cars, that he and his friend were travelling with an assistance dog.

Mr Naman Yaqub, 44, from Leegomery, Telford was dispatched to the Royal British Legion, but upon seeing the assistance dog, he locked the doors to the vehicle and refused to take the fare saying “Dog, no dog”.  Mr Hilton told the driver that the dog was an assistance dog, but despite this Mr Yaqub drove off leaving the passengers without a car to take them home. Mr Hilton was forced to contact the operator and wait for a second car to be sent.

The incident was reported to Shropshire Council’s Trading Standards and Licensing Service, who investigated the matter and brought criminal proceedings against Mr Yaqub.

Under the Equality Act 2010 it is an offence for the driver of a private hire vehicle to refuse to take an assistance dog.

Mr Yaqub pleaded not guilty, stating in his defence that he did not know that the dog was an assistance dog, alleging that ‘Harley’ was not wearing a coat or lead identifying him as such, something which Mr Kane and Mr Hilton strenuously denied.

Having listened to all the evidence in the case, District Judge Cadbury said that he found Mr Hilton and Mr Kane to be truthful and reliable, and as such he was satisfied that ‘Harley’ had been wearing his harness and lead, and that Mr Yaqub had been told by Mr Hilton that he was travelling with an assistance dog.

The Judge thought that Mr Yaqub had been reluctant to accept that Harley was an assistance dog because he didn’t look like a typical guide dog for the blind, as hearing dogs do not wear harnesses with fluorescent yellow stripes but instead wear burgundy jackets.

Mr Yaqub was found guilty of the offence and sentenced to a fine of £375.00 as well as being ordered to pay a £37.50 victim surcharge and prosecution costs of £750.00.

Frances Darling, Trading Standards & Licensing Operations Manager at Shropshire Council, said:

“We welcome the outcome of this case. The Equality Act 2010 makes the position in respect of taking assistance dogs clear – whether they are guide dogs, hearing dogs or medical assistance dogs – it is a criminal offence for a private hire driver to refuse to take an assistance dog unless the driver has a medical exemption issued by the council’s licensing team. Shropshire Council takes incidents such as this extremely seriously as they affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

“It’s incredibly disheartening to hear of this particular incident and that a driver licensed by Shropshire Council has clearly fallen far below what is expected of him.

“Following the successful prosecution, Mr Yaqub has been referred to Shropshire Council’s Licensing Panel where his suitability to hold a private hire drivers’ licence will be reviewed. It is reassuring that following an investigation and the legal process being followed, the court has rightly found the driver guilty.

“We will continue to ensure that taxi and private hire operators and drivers licensed by Shropshire Council comply with all legislation applicable to them. I encourage the public to report any suspected illegal activity to us; the public can be assured that any future incidents of this kind will be investigated.”

Gwilym Butler, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for communities, place, planning & regulatory services, said:

“Any private hire driver who refuses to take assistance dogs faces not only the prospect of legal action in the courts, but also being reported to the Council’s Licensing Panel where there is a possibility that their private hire driver’s licence will be revoked. The Equality Act 2010 provides for people with disabilities to have the same right to services as everyone else and it is against the law for service providers, such as drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles, to treat people less favourably because of their disability, including allowing guide dogs and assistance dogs into taxis and private hire vehicles with their owners”.

If you have any concerns, you should report them to the Trading Standards and Licensing Service at Shropshire Council on 0345 678 9046 or taxis@shropshire.gov.uk.