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Taxi driver who left Guide Dog Owner standing in the rain in Birmingham fined at court

21 Jan 2015

On Thursday 17 December 2014 at Birmingham Magistrates Court, private hire driver Shahzad Ahmed, licensed by Solihull Council, was found guilty in his absence of breaching the Equality Act 2010 following an incident on 27 March this year when he refused to take a passenger and her assistance dog after she had pre-booked a private hire vehicle to take her from the RNIB offices in Birmingham to her home address.

Guide dogs enable people who are blind or partially sighted to travel independently. By law the only reason a private hire driver can refuse to carry an assistance dog is if they have a medical exemption certificate issued by the council; which Mr Ahmad did not possess.

Mr Ahmad did not attend the hearing and his legal advisors had written to the courts asking for an adjournment, however, after some deliberation the Magistrates decided to hear the case in his absence. All the witnesses concerned attended court and gave evidence. The defendant claimed that his vehicle did not have the space to carry the assistance dog and that it was a 'big' dog, a claim that was dismissed by the bench.

He was found guilty under Section 170 (3) (B) of the Equality Act (2010) and given the maximum fine of £1000 as the Magistrates felt that he had left a vulnerable person on her own in the dark, especially with the fact that it was raining. On top of this Mr Ahmad was ordered to pay £1000 of costs and a victim surcharge of £100.

Sue Bushell, Community Engagement Officer for Guide Dogs Birmingham Mobility Team, said "I hope that this conviction sends out a strong message to taxi drivers across the country that refusing to take a guide or assistance dog, unless they have a medical exemption certificate, is illegal and they too could end up in court. We understand that there are sometimes cultural and religious reasons why drivers do not want to carry dogs but not to carry them isn't an option, we don't want to see drivers having to be taken to court, we would rather none of our guide dog owners were ever left stranded, vulnerable, and feeling frustrated and angry.

There was coverage by the BBC just after it occurred.


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