A taxi driver without a private hire operators licence has been prosecuted by Wellingborough Council after accepting a booking to take a couple to Norfolk.
Earlier this year Robert Charles agreed to take the couple to and from the seaside resort of Caister for their holiday. During their journey the couple had reason to complain about the service they received and got in touch with the licensing team at Wellingborough Council.
During the routine investigation, the council’s licensing officers discovered that although Mr Charles does hold a private hire drivers licence – and has done so since April 2011– he doesn’t hold a private hire operators licence. This means that he is not legally allowed to accept bookings directly from members of the public and must only work for a licensed company. Further investigation also revealed that Mr Charles had a website, called VIP Taxis, which advertised his unauthorised private hire service.
Amanda Wilcox, Licensing Manager at Wellingborough Council, said: “The vast majority of taxi operators are well run and licensed correctly by the council. But when we get evidence of unlicensed operators, driver or vehicles, we won’t hesitate to take legal action in the interests of public safety.
“A private hire operators licence costs around £300 and requires the holder to comply with a number of conditions, including keeping records of every journey taken, monitoring the drivers, and making sure all directors of the company are CRB checked. Taking bookings without this licence means these safeguards are no longer in place. It also means that the unauthorised driver has an economic advantage over anyone that has paid for the correct licence.”
Mr Charles appeared at Wellingborough Magistrates Court on Thursday 8 November. He pleaded guilty to accepting a booking without holding a private hire operators licence and was given a conditional discharge. This means that if he goes before court for any offence in the next 12 months, this conviction will be taken into account. Mr Charles was also ordered to pay £500 towards the council’s costs.
Amanda Wilcox added: “Mr Charles is aware his actions and subsequent conviction means that his private hire drivers licence is at risk. We are currently considering our position as to whether his licence will be renewed, suspended, or revoked.”
If members of the public have any concerns about private hire companies or the drivers carrying out taxi work, they should contact the council’s licensing section on 01933 229777.