Taxi licence decision upheld
A decision to revoke the licence of one of the first taxi drivers to be convicted in the UK for refusing to take a wheelchair user has been upheld.
St Albans City and District Council withdrew the hackney carriage driver’s licence of Majid Hussein Butt after his conviction for the crime.
Butt, 32, appealed against the decision at a hearing at St Albans Magistrates’ Court on Monday 10 June.
However, Magistrates dismissed the case after ruling the Council had acted correctly and ordered Butt to pay £3,000 towards its costs.
After the case, Councillor Brian Ellis, Chair of the Council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee, said:
I’m pleased that this appeal was unsuccessful and the Magistrates supported our decision.
Mr Butt was convicted of a serious offence and it was felt that we had no option but to take away his licence under these circumstances.
Licensed taxi drivers using accessible vehicles are now forbidden by the law from discriminating against wheelchair users and it is our job to enforce that.
The vast majority of the District’s taxi drivers do an outstanding job and are very helpful to disabled customers. However, this prosecution shows that if we hear of an offence, we will investigate and we will take appropriate action.
The Council prosecuted Butt for failure to comply with an obligation under the Equality Act not to discriminate against wheelchair users.
He was accused of refusing to take a wheelchair user along with another disabled passenger on a journey from St Albans to Harpenden in July last year.
Butt, of Ash Road, Luton, pleaded guilty at a hearing in February and was fined £250 along with a victim surcharge of £30 and a contribution towards the Council’s costs of £250.
It is believed it may be the first prosecution of its kind since the requirement to take wheelchair users at no extra cost came into force in April 2017.
Shortly after the conviction, the Council revoked Butt’s hackney carriage driver’s licence.
The Council licenses drivers for the hackney carriage and private hire trade within the District and ensures they adhere to the rules. Hackney carriages are licensed to pick up people who hail from the roadside while private hire licences only permit pre-arranged bookings.
At the appeal hearing, Butt’s solicitor Tim Scarisbrick argued his client had apologised for what was a one-off offence and was genuinely remorseful.
He said at the time of the offence Butt was suffering from a bad back that limited his ability to give assistance and that his vehicle’s ramp was broken.
However, Magistrates upheld the Council’s decision that Butt could no longer be considered a fit and proper person to hold a licence.
They found the Council had correctly followed its own Convictions Policy and Department of Transport guidance. Both state that anyone committing such an offence under the Equality Act cannot be deemed fit and proper.
Moreover, Butt had failed to provide any evidence that he had a bad back nor had he obtained a medical exemption. He should have informed the Council if his ramp was broken and ceased working until it was fixed.
Cllr Brian Ellis,
Chair of Regulatory and Licensing Committee of St Albans City and District Council
Tel: 01582 767621
Principal Communications Officer,
St Albans City and District Council