A taxi driver has been ordered to pay £1,080 by magistrates after being prosecuted by Stoke-on-Trent City Council for refusing to take a disabled passenger in his cab.
Student Bal Deol, aged 25, told North Staffordshire Justice Centre she was left humiliated and in tears after Mohammed Butt turned her away when she approached his wheelchair-accessible vehicle at the taxi rank in Lichfield Street on August 1 last year. It meant Miss Deol, who was trying to get to Stoke-on-Trent railway station, ended up missing her train.
The city council investigated after Miss Deol, who lives in Stoke, made a complaint to its taxi licensing department. After reviewing the evidence, the council decided to prosecute Butt under Section 53 of the Town and Police Clauses Act 1847, which makes it illegal for a taxi to refuse to take a passenger without reasonable excuse. Butt denied the offence, but was found guilty following a trial at North Staffordshire Justice Centre yesterday – the first prosecution of its kind in the city.
In court, Butt claimed the main reason for refusing to transport Miss Deol had been safety concerns. Although his ramp was designed to take 300 kilos of weight – and Miss Deol and her chair weighed 105 kilos – he was worried about her tipping over. It also emerged he had mistakenly thought Miss Deol was drunk as her words were slurred due to her disability. Miss Deol said Butt refused to give her a lift and shut his window.
Butt, aged 56, of Wellesley Street, Shelton, was fined £300 by magistrates, who also imposed £750 costs and a £30 surcharge.
Following the prosecution, Stoke-on-Trent City Council's licensing and registration panel will be meeting to review Butt’s taxi licence.
Cllr Randy Conteh, cabinet member for housing, communities and safer city, said: “We expect high standards from taxi drivers who are licenced by the council. Not only is it totally unacceptable to refuse to take someone because they are in wheelchair, it is illegal and we won’t hesitate to take legal action – as this case shows. The passenger was left embarrassed and upset by the incident and ended up missing a train she was due to catch, and all of that could and should have easily been avoided. It will now be up to the council’s licensing and registration panel to decide whether further action is needed in relation to Mr Butt’s taxi licence.”
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