A Preston private hire operator that refused to accept a booking from a passenger with a guide dog pleaded guilty at Preston Magistrates' Court and has been ordered to pay a total of £1,779.04.
On 15 November 2018 at around 4pm a visually impaired member of the public, telephoned Eagle Taxis (Preston) Ltd to book a trip from Preston North End (where she had been attending an event).
After confirming the booking to travel to the train station, the complainant advised the operator that she would be travelling with an assistance dog.
At that point the operator said that he did not have any dog friendly drivers available.
Despite the warnings from the caller that it was unlawful to refuse the booking, the operator insisted that he did not have a driver that would take the guide dog and ended the conversation.
Coun Peter Moss, Cabinet member for planning and regulation, said: “This has been a very distressing time for the complainant, and I’m pleased it was a favourable outcome at court. Booking a private hire vehicle is an act many of us take for granted, but when your independence relies on others following the law it’s something that’s always on your mind.
“Our licensing team work diligently to ensure private hire drivers and companies are fulfilling their duties and operating within the law.”
When passing sentence, District Judge McCormack took into account the company’s early guilty plea, the apology put forward at the hearing, that it was an isolated incident and that it has taken steps to prevent future incidents. The company was also advised to keep written training records. The District Judge recognised the complainant was trying to live her life to the fullest and found the incident very upsetting.
RNIB Regional Campaigns Officer for the North West and the complainant in this case, Ms Terri Balon, said: “It was a horrible experience, but I am glad that the company has pleaded guilty.
“I and other guide dog users should have the same access to taxi services as everyone else. A guide dog is a vital mobility aid, and drivers should not be refusing us just because we have to use our dogs for support.
“Under the 2010 Equalities Act it is illegal for a taxi or private hire vehicle to refuse to carry a blind or partially sighted person in a taxi because they are a guide dog user. Drivers should never refuse a passenger with a guide dog or charge them more money for a journey. Drivers with a medical condition that prevents them from assisting passengers or from carrying dogs in their vehicle have to apply for an exemption certificate.”