St Albans taxi driver loses licence after refusing to take wheelchair user and blind man

Stricter rules are being imposed on taxi drivers in St Albans. Picture: DANNY LOO

Stricter rules are being imposed on taxi drivers in St Albans. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

A taxi driver who refused to pick up a blind man and a wheelchair user in St Albans has had his licence revoked.

In July last year, former president of St Albans Chamber of Commerce David Clarke, who is blind, and former town councillor Michael Weaver, who uses a wheelchair, were dining with the chamber’s executive director Lisa Bates-Wallis.

Lisa called and paid ahead for a taxi to take them from George Street to Harpenden, but when the Gold Line Taxi driver pulled up, he was not parallel with Michael’s wheelchair.

When asked to move forward, the driver told Ms Bates-Wallis that he had a bad back, adding: “I’m not dealing with this”, before driving away.

The group were left “stunned” and “disgusted” at the driver’s behaviour, St Albans Magistrates’ Court heard on February 6.

Gold Line apologised after the incident and sent another car to take the booking.

Majid Hussein Butt, of Ash Road in Luton, pleaded guilty to failure to comply with Section 165 of the Equality Act 2010 and has been fined £250, along with a victim surcharge of £30 and a contribution towards St Albans district council’s costs of £250.

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His Hackney Carriage Driver’s Licence has also been revoked - although he has three weeks to appeal that decision.

In mitigation, Butt’s solicitor Ahmed Malik said his client had worked as a taxi driver for six years without complaint.

Chair of St Albans district council (SADC) licensing and regulatory committee, Cllr David Heritage, said: “We are very sorry at the distress caused by the refusal of one of our licensed taxi drivers to take a wheelchair user.

“The driver’s action has led to both a successful prosecution by the council in the courts and the decision to take away his licence under our convictions policy.

“Under the Equality Act, licensed taxi drivers using accessible vehicles must not discriminate against wheelchair users. They should also give them assistance when required.

“The vast majority of our taxi drivers do an excellent job and are very helpful to disabled customers with complaints being very rare.

“However, this prosecution shows that when we are told of an offence, we will investigate and take appropriate action.”