PH driver facing ban after illegally picking up undercover council workers

A private-hire driver could be stripped of his licence after admitting illegally accepting a fare from enforcement officers masquerading as potential clients.

As a licensed minicab driver, Kulwant Cheema was authorised to take pre-booked passengers but prohibited from accepting anyone flagging him down from the side of the road.

But he admitted to magistrates he did pick up the pair from Cleveland Street, in Wolverhampton city centre, in November last year and agreed to take them to The Mount Hotel, Tettenhall.

Appearing at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court on Tuesday, Cheema, said: “I saw them waving frantically. It was a bitterly cold night.

“I did say to them they should have booked before we pulled off. I thought that is what they were doing because one of them was on their phone and you can do it through a text.”

The enforcement officers from Wolverhampton council were in fact sending a text message to their colleagues who were at the roadside to greet Cheema when the taxi arrived at its destination.

An interview was arranged at which Cheema, an experienced taxi driver of eight years standing, said he picked up the pair because he ‘felt sorry for them’ as they looked cold and ‘in desperate need’ of a taxi.

He added: “During the journey I actually received a job on the system. I pressed it thinking it was the one the passengers had booked but the screen went blank.

“I thought once I was at the hotel I would check the screen.”

At court Cheema admitted one count of plying for hire when the carriage was not licensed as a public hackney carriage and also to one count of driving without insurance.

He was fined a total of £460 for the two offences, told to pay £629 towards prosecution costs and a £35 victim surcharge. Six penalty points were also put on his driving licence.

The chair of the magistrate’s bench, who refused to give his name to the Express & Star, told Cheema: “You know as well I do for passengers to use a private hire taxi they must have booked in advance. You cannot get into the cab and then book it.

“You also know that you were driving without insurance. This will be a hard lesson to learn for you but it is done to protect the public and other taxi drivers.

“Undoubtedly the council will want to talk to you about your taxi licence. It is a silly thing to do and you will have to suffer the consequences for it.”