Minicab company owner to have licence reviewed after driver caused motorcyclist’s death

The owner of a Minicab company that failed to act upon a complaint against a dangerous driver who killed a motorcyclist is to have his licence reviewed, an inquest has heard.

Hayley Barsby, deputy chief executive of Mansfield District Council, told coroner Mairin Casey that the authority will review Dennis Lamb’s operator’s licence within 28 days as a result of evidence heard in the inquest into Mark Buckley’s death.

The 34-year-old was killed in the early hours of March 30, 2014, when Minicab driver Kevin Wiesztort collided with him on the A611 Derby Road at 5.30am

Wiesztort admitted causing death by dangerous driving and was jailed last year for 45 months.

On Monday, the inquest heard that a dispatcher at Mr Lamb’s company Aaeron Cars, in Mansfield, received a complaint about Wiesztort’s driving and reported the issue to his wife Edna Lamb.

Mrs Lamb failed to act upon the complaint and just hours later Wiesztort hit Mr Buckley’s motorcycle.

The inquest heard that the company had no formal complaints procedure at the time of the accident but Mr Lamb said that he has since introduced a complaints sheet where employees can document them formally.

The hearing heard that Mr Lamb is subject to a “strict 12 month warning” until February next year to assess his fitness to hold an operator’s licence.

Miss Casey told the inquest that, following his evidence, Mr Lamb “concedes” that he failed to implement a complaints procedure or train staff in how to deal with them.

As a result, Mrs Barsby said she was concerned that Mr Lamb had been unable to adhere to the requirements of his notice.

She said: “Mr Lamb was to implement a complaints procedure and he was to train staff.

“I think it’s very clear on the evidence that Mr Lamb gave yesterday that that has not been put in place.”

Mrs Barsby told the court that the review of Mr Lamb’s operator’s licence would be a priority.

She said: “We will be requesting him to attend a panel hearing in order to satisfy that he is fit and proper to hold that licence.”
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Police family liaison officer Helen Neaverson told the inquest that efforts could have been made to stop Wiesztort from driving if a complaint had been made to the police that day.

She said: “There’s a chance that we would have been able to find the vehicle – it wasn’t a particularly busy time of day – we would have known the route back to Mansfield and we would have been able to, potentially, put vehicles out looking for the Minicab driver.”

Samantha Yates, licensing team leader at Mansfield District Council, told the inquest that a letter was sent to Mr Lamb following a hearing with the authority in February, requiring him to implement a complaints procedure.

She said the council believed that Mr Lamb had fulfilled the requirement, however he admitted that that was not the case during the inquest proceedings.

Miss Yates said future checks will have to go further to find out “is this a reality or a piece of paper”.

Mr Buckley’s partner Rachael Price was also able to the witness.

During her questioning, she stated that Wiesztort continued to work for Aaeron Cars after the accident.

Coroner Miss Casey interjected and asked Miss Yates when Mr Lamb reported the incident to the council.

Referring to a report, Miss Yates said that he notified the council that one of his cars had been involved in an accident on April 1, 2014.

Miss Casey said that Mr Lamb had given a “partial account” and had left out crucial information relating to Mr Buckley’s death.

As a result, the council only investigated whether or not the vehicle involved in the accident was fit to be on the road.

The coroner asked Miss Yates what action would be taken if the council received a similar call now.

She said that a full investigation, including questions relating to any people involved in the accident, would be carried out.
The inquest continues.


Taxi driver Abdo Al Arab loses his appeal against Taunton Deane Borough Council revoking his licence

Barred taxi driver who ‘gave false address’ loses appeal to get licence back

A CABBIE who gave a false address to try to get a licence has been told the council was right to block his application.

Magistrates have upheld Taunton Deane Borough Council’s decision to revoke Abdo Al Arab’s taxi and private hire vehicle and driver’s licence.

Licensing officers at the Deane House became suspicious when Al Arab gave his address as a property in Taunton, having previously supplied a Bristol address.

Their enquiries revealed that the premises was actually vacant and had been for some time and there were complaints about Al Arab using his taxi in Bristol.

They suspected Al Arab of trying to get round the authority’s rules, which state that drivers living outside the district must prove they will use their licence to drive in the Deane and not elsewhere.

The policy was introduced in August 2015 in response to an influx of applications from drivers based in Bristol looking for an easier and cheaper route to obtain their taxi driver licence.

He was interviewed by council officers who subsequently revoked his licence.

Al Arab appealed the decision at Taunton Deane Magistrates’ Court, where the bench believed he had made a false statement on his application and upheld the council’s decision.

The district council was awarded costs of £300.

After the case, Cllr Patrick Berry, Taunton Deane Borough Council’s executive member for environmental services, said: “It is very important that the travelling public has confidence in taxis, their drivers, and the local authority that issues their licences.

“We have taken positive actions to ensure that the taxis and drivers that are permitted to operate in Taunton, live in or near the area and have the necessary knowledge of the towns and the surrounding countryside.

“So our message to the taxi drivers is, ‘You have to work here to have a licence’.”


Killer taxi driver put passengers through “pure hell”, inquest is told

Taxi customers described a journey as “pure hell” and made a complaint about their driver just hours before he ploughed head-on into a Mansfield motorcyclist and killed him, an inquest was told.

Mark Buckley, 34, died when a taxi smashed into his Yamaha 125cc bike on the A611 Derby Road in the early hours of the morning.

Kevin Wiesztort is thought to have fallen asleep and his Fiat Doblo careered into the path of the bike ridden by the father-of-three who had been heading to work in Annesley.

However, the inquest into the death of Mr Buckley, held at Nottingham Coroner’s Court today, heard that a couple who had used the taxi in the hours before had even phoned the cab operators, Aaeron Cars in Mansfield, to complain about him.

Wiesztort had taken the pair, who are from the Mansfield area, to Birmingham Airport where they quickly rang the company.

Statements taken by David and Michelle Newton were read out at the inquest and had described his driving as “erratic”.

They said his speed fluctuated, he was fidgety and weaving in and out of lanes on the motorway, even crossing the rumble strips at one point.

The couple suspected he had either been drinking or was on drugs, and told the cab company that they did not want him picking them up when they returned from holiday.

Mrs Newton said: “I could not get out of that taxi fast enough. I told him he was not fit to drive and a danger.

“He had no right to be behind the wheel.”

The inquest was told how the cab radio operator, Stephanie Dudley, had taken the call from the angry passengers and she had contacted Wiesztort shortly after he had dropped them off.

He had stopped off at a garage to get an energy drink before heading back to the Mansfield area, but assured her he was fine.

Coroner for Nottinghamshire, Mairin Casey, asked Stephanie Dudley if the police had been contacted over his driving, to which she said they hadn’t.

Following the fatal smash, Wiesztort, 36, was found to have no alcohol or drugs in his system, but said he only had nine hours sleep in the three days previous to the accident which happened at around 5.30am on Sunday, March 30, 2014.

Wiesztort said he had no recollection of the incident, which happened near to Notts Golf Club.

Forensics suggested the taxi had veered completely over to the wrong side of the road, while conditions were described as being “extremely foggy”.

For his part, Wiesztort was jailed in February, 2015, for 45 months after admitting causing death by dangerous driving.

Earlier in today’s proceedings, Mr Buckley’s partner of seven years, Rachael Price, read out two heartfelt statements.

She said: “I would like to say it’s got easier, however, it hasn’t.

“In fact, at times, things have got much harder.

“We put our trust in taxi driver and expect certain standards to be in place.”

She told the coroner that she wanted to know what happened to the complaint made by the couple in the hours before her partner’s death and if any policies were put in place to prevent drivers from taking to the road if they were unfit through drink, drugs or even tiredness.

The inquest is expected to be completed tomorrow, Tuesday, October 25.


Taxi drivers could be forced to take BTEC to ‘improve quality of service’

CHRISTCHURCH council could ask taxi drivers to complete BTEC and NVQ qualifications in a bid to ‘improve the level of service’.

A report to the licensing committee which meets today asks members to decide if they want to introduce new measures and go out to consultation with the taxi trade on the proposals.

They will also discuss whether to introduce a safeguarding module for drivers to complete.

It comes after Bournemouth council asked their drivers to complete BTEC and NVQ courses, which led to a concern that drivers were moving to Christchurch to work.

The report said: “It was also felt that such qualifications may improve the general level of service offered to the public by taxi drivers.”

Across the different council areas there are variances on the requirements for taxi drivers.

Bournemouth and Poole run safeguarding courses, Christchurch and East Dorset require English spoken tests for hackney carriage drivers and some authorities do knowledge tests on the area and aspects of the law.

The courses at Bournemouth are run by Bournemouth and Poole College and cost around £800 per driver.

Some of this is paid for via a government contribution, but this may not be available after 2017.

Previously, when the policies were reviewed, the idea of qualifications were “vehemently opposed” by the Taxi Liaison Forum, the report to members says.

And council officers have warned about the possibility of even stronger opposition in the light of the lack of government funding.

Councillors on the licensing committee will also be asked to look at a new safeguarding policy following the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse in Rotherham.

Officers have considered an e-learning course and seminars, but “have reservations” they could be too in depth and irrelevant.

“There is also concern that applicants would not complete the on-line course themselves, but instead enlist help from others.”

The practicality issue is also raised, with officers suggesting questions to be included as part of the council’s Knowledge test.


Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver Licence Conditions

Comparison of Dorset Policies – Appendix 1

Summary of BTEC and NVQ – Appendix 2 , item 4

The Valley has more taxis per head than London

The map of the 30 mile borough radius for taxi drivers addresses. Map from Rossendale Borough Council licensing documents
The map of the 30 mile borough radius for taxi drivers addresses. Map from Rossendale Borough Council licensing documents

Rossendale is the taxi capital of the UK with more cabs per head than London, government figures have revealed.

Valley taxis have become notorious for operating outside the borough but the shock figures show that there are more Rossendale licenced taxis and minicabs by population than anywhere else in England or Wales.

The taxi and private hire vehicles statistics released by the Department of Transport, show 1,610 taxis and minicabs in Rossendale in March 2015, – which works out as one for every 42.9 people.

London, by contrast, has one cab for every 100 people who live there.

Uttlesford in Essex has the second most, proportionately, with one for every 76.9 people.

By July of this year the number for Rossendale had risen again to 2,523 – which works out as one cab for every 27 residents.

The data shows that the total number of licensed cabs in the borough rose a staggering 412 per cent between 2013 and 2015, and the number of licensed drivers rose by 311.

Jake Berry, MP for Rossendale and Darwen said he was “shocked” by the figures.

He said: “These figures are of huge concern.

“It seems that Rossendale’s taxi licensing is a magnet to all and sundry to seek a licence without working in the Valley.”

The statistical release by the DofT states: “Rossendale Borough Council had the greatest increase in both total licensed vehicles and driver licences in England.

This is likely due to the fact that although taxis can only be driven by drivers licensed by Rossendale Council, once a vehicle becomes a licensed taxi, the law allows it to accept pre-bookings in any district in England and Wales.”

Local authorities in Sheffield, Bradford, Rochdale and Derby have all publicly criticised the number of Rossendale-licensed cabs operating in their areas.

David Lawrie, chair of the Rossendale Taxi Association said he was “surprised” by the figures, but that new policies were in the process of changing the taxi industry.

He said: “The infrastructure in Rossendale is very different to London. The only transport we have seven days a week, 24 hours a day is taxis.

“I take on board that the majority of those vehicles are operating outside the borough, but once the intended use policy kicks in March they will revert back to where we were 15 years ago where we saw a maximum of 300 licensed vehicles.

“In 12 months there will be a drop from thousands to hundreds of licenses, which is a good thing for local drivers because we get negatively criticised – even though it’s the council that messed up and issued all these licenses.

“Years ago we told them to introduce a cap and they refused. This is the result.”

The intended use’ policy approved in January, sets out the council’s plan and requirements for hackney licensing and renewal. Members of the licensing committee agreed to “refine” to reject applicants whose address is beyond a 30 miles radius from a fixed point within the borough.

Councillor Steve Hughes, chair of the council’s licensing committee, said that the statistics were not “ideal”.

He said: “We obviously know there is a problem with the numbers of licensed vehicles we have and we are doing work to try and bring our policy to where it needs to be to increase the Rossendale taxis operating within the Rossendale area.

“We have been admittedly slow to dealing with the loopholes that have been created with the change in policy at a national government level.

“Other authorities have reduced their numbers of licenses more quickly but we are doing what we need to do to get there.

“There is a need for national policy that would help sort this situation out quickly and effectively.”

He added: “The intended use policy has significantly brought down the number of licence requests we are receiving and the consultation that has just concluded will make even more changes and hopefully bring that number down to ensure that we don’t have this problem moving forward.

“What I want is to make a fair and open process so that local people can have an opportunity to get into the taxi business but that doesn’t create the numbers we have” currently.”


“Words can’t express your stupidity” — Angus taxi driver sacked after touching teenager

An Angus taxi driver was sacked by his employer after he sexually assaulted a teenager, a court heard.

Brian Michie from Brechin appeared at Forfar Sheriff Court and admitted assaulting the female at his home.

The court heard the 60-year-old had become “attracted” to the teenager and had “made a move” on April 23 this year.

But he was told by a sheriff that words “can’t express” his stupidity at grabbing the young woman’s breast.

The court heard Michie had been working as a private hire driver in the area but was no longer licenced.

Defending Michie, solicitor Robin Beattie said his client had been sacked as soon as the offence was reported to his former employer.

He told the court: “He was previously working as a taxi driver.

“However he was sacked on the day of his initial plea in the court.

“That’s not surprising,” said Sheriff Gregor Murray.

Mr Beattie continued: “I think that’s one of the conditions of being a licenced driver.

“She…was friendly to him, at least until the offence.

“He accepts that he was sexually attracted to her and that was what caused him to make a move.”

Sheriff Murray told him: “Words can’t express your stupidity and the folly of what you did, and you’ll have to pay for that.”

The sheriff imposed a community payback order with supervision requirements, and 125 hours of unpaid work to be completed within nine months.

Michie was placed on the interim sex offenders register at his plea, and will remain on the register for the term of the order.

Michie, of Drumachlie Park, admitted a single charge on summary complaint of sexually assaulting the woman by touching her breast, contrary to section 3 of the Sexual Offences Act (Scotland) 2009.


Taxi drivers fined £4,000 for illegally plying for hire during the 2016 Gold Cup

Four taxi drivers have been fined almost £4,000 for illegally plying for hire in Cheltenham during the 2016 Gold Cup.

Sarah Hughes, licensing enforcement officer for the borough council, said the prosecutions are a “warning to drivers who wish to capitalise on the additional footfall” during race week.

Duncan Holder, of Solway Road in Cheltenham, was ordered to pay £1,550 in fines and costs on Monday, October 17 after pleading guilty to the offence by post.

Manunur Rashid, a licensed Hackney Carriage driver with Malvern District Council, attended court and was represented.

He pleaded guilty to illegally plying for hire and was ordered to pay £753 in fines and costs while Ephraim Chimuka of Reservoir Road, Gloucester also pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay £848.

Aziz Ur Rehman of Pilgrove Way, Cheltenham, pleaded guilty by post and was ordered to pay a total of £820.

The four most recent convictions follow a successful prosecution of Steven Rising for the same offence.

A further four drivers pleaded not guilty and trial dates have been set for early 2017.

Councillor Andy McKinlay, cabinet member for development and safety said: “We are pleased that the work by officers to stamp out illegal taxi activity during the March races is bearing fruit and we are now seeing successful prosecutions.

“Such illegal activity can significantly compromise public safety and protection and the council will do whatever it can within its means to continue to focus resource and effort to bring those guilty to justice.”

What is plying for hire?

British transport union RMT says: “Under existing regulations, private hire vehicles (PHVs) may only pick up passengers when pre-booked, rather than from a rank or in response to being hailed.

“These regulations provide passengers with important safety protections against unregulated drivers who have not undergone extensive criminal record and medical checks, or had to pass a formal taxi driving assessment like licensed taxi drivers.

“However, Smartphone apps such as Über are circumventing the law governing the taxi and minicab industry.”


Uber driver who called passenger a black c*** before punching her avoids jails

An Uber driver who called a passenger a ‘black c***’ and then punched her in the face in a fit of anger has avoided jail.

Shahab Akbar, 33, hurled the insult at Taleka White, 27, before trying pull her from his cab and punching her twice in the face after a row over two drop-offs.

The former driver, who has since had his licence removed, pleaded his innocence but was found guilty of racially aggravated common assault last month.

Yesterday, magistrates in Croydon handed him a 16 week suspended prison sentence and a 200 hour community order following the incident in Addiscombe on November 29 last year.

His victim was left with a lump on her head, bruising to her face and a bloodied wrist and knuckles.

She told the Evening Standard: ‘I no longer trust minicab drivers. I have become very concerned about how I get home from a night out.

‘It has taken the fun out of my life. I have become the designated driver for my friends.’

The court heard how the attack occurred after the victim and a friend used the app after a night out in Croydon.

Prosecutor Angela Mahadeo said Akbar grew angry when he became confused over where to drop off her friend, he then began to insult Taleka as she continued the journey alone.

Ernest Aduwa, for the defence, said it was an ‘isolated incident’ and his client, of Lampits, Hertfordshire, was a man of good character and had no previous convictions.

He told the court: ‘Whilst he doesn’t accept that he committed the offence. He does accept that the behaviour alleged is unacceptable.

‘He would like me to tell the court that this whole experience has been embarrassing for him and has been quite traumatic and left him feeling ashamed.’

Akbar was ordered to pay £500 in compensation to the victim, an £150 victim surcharge and £600 in costs.

A spokesman for Uber told the Standard: ‘We were appalled by this horrific incident. Uber does not tolerate violence or discrimination of any kind.

‘We assisted the police with their investigation and immediately stopped this licensed driver from being able to use our app.’

Read more:

Call for change in Scunthorpe taxi system after driver narrowly avoids losing licence

A CALL has been made for a ‘taxi queuing system’ to be put into place across the whole of Scunthorpe, following its success at the town’s train station.

The suggestion has been made by the chairman of the Scunthorpe and District Taxi Association and follows a case heard by North Lincolnshire Council during which one driver narrowly avoided losing his licence, following an incident at the station.

Abul Sadar, 64, appeared before a licensing sub-committee after he amassed 12 points on his DVLA Driving Licence for speeding and was pictured driving his taxi at Scunthorpe Train Station without his Hackney Carriage licence plate.

Mr Sadar – who pays the £500 annual payment needed to operate at the station – said that he was having his plate replaced and was at the station to meet a friend who supplies him with eggs and honey.

Mr Sadar told the licensing committee, “I went to see my friend because I get my eggs and honey from him. I went to see him for eggs or honey, not for a passenger.”

Mr Sadar said he would never consider picking up a passenger without his plate.

He said: “I can categorically say that they told me to pick up the plate from the office and said to come back a few hours later and this is what happened.

“I thought I had a bit of time, somebody took my picture and that was it.”

“I doubt very much it (his licence) will be renewed.”

A spokeswoman for North Lincolnshire Council said: “Mr Sadar appeared before the Licensing (Miscellaneous) Sub-Committee because he had amassed 12 points on his DVLA Driving Licence for speeding.

“All of these points were for excess speed. Although the Magistrates’ Court had not removed his DVLA Licence, the council is in a position whereby the licence needs to be considered to determine if he is a fit and proper person.

“In addition, we had received a complaint that Mr Sadar had been sat plying for hire on a Hackney Carriage Stand without the rear licence plate attached to the vehicle.

“Mr Sadar claims he went to the station to talk to a friend, but he parked his vehicle on a Hackney Carriage Stand and thus was plying for hire.

“Hackney Carriage stands are there for one purpose only – they cannot be used to park a vehicle, even if it is a Hackney Carriage.”

“As for renewing his licence, should he have 12 points on his Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver’s Licence we would refer him back to the committee. As he has four points, this will not have an impact.”

Mr Sadar blamed competition among taxi drivers for the incident and would like to see a the amount of Hackney Carriage licenses limited.
He said: “We have to work 18-19 hours a day. People try to make a living but it is very difficult, there are many drivers.”

Chairman of the Scunthorpe and District Taxi Association, John Fleming, 73, said: “Any driver can pick up a passenger at the station with a booking, but they can’t park there and pick up passengers without paying the £500 permit.”

Mr Fleming said he suggested introducing the queuing system at the train station three years ago.

“We agreed to put in a first come first serve service.

“If a passenger doesn’t go to the front of the queue we have to point them to the front. We would tell them to go to the first taxi.

“I would like to see the queue system at all ranks in Scunthorpe. We’ve had it for three years at the station and it works.”

“We would be happy to see the council limit the amount of Hackney Taxis, but if they are going to do it they would have to give people notice and introduce it gradually.”

“Some days you can be really busy and some days you can be really quiet but that is the nature of taxing.”

“I am sure most of the organisations would agree with him (Mr Sadar). We would definitely agree on a limit but you can’t just do it tomorrow.

“We would be quite happy to raise it with the council but we have to be realistic.

“You take the good with the bad.”

The spokeswoman for the council said that it can look at restricting the amount of hackney carriage licences issued, but an independent survey -which would be carried out every three years – would cost drivers a significant amount of money.

She said: “We would need to carry out an unmet demand survey every three years at a cost of about £30,000.

“This would be paid for by the Hackney Carriage trade. We cannot restrict private hire vehicles or drivers of either type of vehicle.”


Ex-soldier and taxi drivers among those caught in undercover sting on Newcastle drug dealers

Using covert recording equipment, undercover police officers posed as users to trap people in the city centre and West End who were ‘peddling misery’

A former soldier and taxi drivers were among those snared in an undercover police sting to nab drug dealers in Newcastle.

Using covert recording equipment, police officers posed as users to trap people in the city centre and West End who were willing to supply cocaine and cannabis.

Ex-squaddie David Nixon was one of those caught dealing cocaine in Operation Themis, along with his then-partner, sometimes with young children in the car.

Taxi driver Shamsher Iqbal was caught selling drugs as he tried to save up for a new car while Amar Khan got involved after losing his job as a cabbie following a driving conviction.

Now Nixon, Iqbal and Khan have been locked up at Newcastle Crown Court while Nixon’s partner and another man got suspended prison sentences.

Judge Tim Gittins told them they had been “peddling misery”, adding: “It can’t be said often enough that these drugs blight lives and kill.

“They cause untold misery for those who take them and their friends and family who have to deal with the effects and for the wider innocent public, who are affected directly and indirectly by offences committed to fund addictions or offences committed while under the influence of drugs.”

Nixon, 24, and Michele Summerside, 27, both of Bishop’s Road, Benwell, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine after being caught selling to an undercover officer.

Nixon supplied cocaine on six occasions while Summerside supplied once and was present twice when Nixon was dealing.

In July last year officer ‘John’ met Summerside outside Lidl on Benwell Lane.

Matthew Bean, prosecuting, said: “Two children were in the rear seat, aged around three to four years old.

“John paid £40 for two wraps.”

On another occasion Nixon had a female child in the car when he turned up to sell £20 of cocaine, the court heard.

Judge Gittins told them: “One appalling aggravating feature of the offences so far as both of you are concerned is you were with your young children on occasions when you met the purchaser, so they were present when you were supplying serious class A drugs.”

When police went to Summerside’s home in Benwell they found more than 56g of cocaine worth up to £6,000, plus more than £1,000 in cash.

Nixon, who also admitted attacking a door supervisor in a pub with a pool cue in May, was jailed for a total of three years and five months.

Andrew Walker, mitigating, said: “He served his country in Afghanistan twice in the Royal Signals and served in the British Army until he was medically discharged last year.

“He was medically discharged with post-traumatic stress disorder because of his experiences on the battlefield.”

Summerside was given two years suspended for two years with a six-month curfew.

Jonathan Cousins, for Summerside, said she cares for her three young children and her sister and “bitterly regrets” becoming involved to help Nixon when he got into debt.

Mr Cousins said: “Most of all, she very bitterly regrets the children being in the vehicle when she did the deal.

“She felt she couldn’t leave the children in the house because there were no other carers.”

In separate offences linked only by the police operation, Iqbal, 26, supplied drugs to an undercover officer in October and November last year in the Mill Lane area, near Westgate Road.

When he was arrested he was found to have more than £3,000 in cash and told police he was a cabbie.

When the undercover officer asked Iqbal for cocaine, he said he didn’t sell it but introduced him to former taxi driver Amar Khan.

Iqbal, of Beaconsfield Street, Arthur’s Hill, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to two counts of supplying cannabis and one of supplying cocaine and was jailed for 18 months.

Khan, 25, of Ladykirk Road, Benwell, admitted supplying £40 wraps of cocaine on five occasions between November 4 and 12 and was jailed for two years and seven months.

Iqbal’s barrister said he had sold cannabis for a limited period to help him save up to buy his own taxi and said he was not a cocaine dealer or user and had simply facilitated a cocaine deal with Khan on one occasion.

Iqbal lost his job as a taxi driver when police informed his employers of his arrest on the drugs charges.

The court heard he has a partner and child and has now quit drugs.

Khan’s barrister said he started taking cocaine after losing his job as a taxi driver and began dealing to fund his £50 a day habit.

In another case, Klodian Maleti, 23, of Baxter Avenue, Fenham, Newcastle, admitted one offence of supplying cocaine to an undercover officer called ‘Chris’ on October 13 last year for £50.

He was given a two year suspended prison sentence with 200 hours unpaid work and a six month curfew.

The court heard he had come to the UK in 1999 from war-torn Kosovo and got addicted to drugs while at university but is intelligent, hard-working and is now off drugs and extremely remorseful.

The sentences of six other people who have admitted drugs offences were adjourned until later this year.