Millionaire Addison Lee minicab tycoon forced to apologise after criticising deaf footballer for ‘grunting’ like a female tennis player

  • John Griffin says he regrets comparing grunting noises made up deaf footballer Daniel Ailey to those made female tennis stars
  • Minicab boss claims police called to deal with fans heckling the player should have made Ailey ‘discontinue making noises’
  • Deaf charity call e-mail attack as an ‘own goal’

The boss of the UK’s biggest minicab firm apologised today for comparing a deaf footballer who ‘grunts’ during matches to female tennis players.

Millionaire Addison Lee chairman and leading Tory donor John Griffin appeared to crack the joke at the expense of Potters Bar’s deaf footballer Daniel Ailey.

The non-league striker was abused by Grays Athletic fans in a midweek match last month for the way he communicates with his team-mates.

Police were called when some of the fans started making loud grunting noises mocking the way he gets the attention of his fellow players.

Ailey was said to be ‘very upset’ about being abused on the pitch.

The striker, who has one child, declined to comment directly, but his club manager Adam Lee said: ‘Daniel has told me he is very upset about what has happened.

‘He has been a bit more introverted over the last couple of weeks. He is going away for a long weekend with his partner and child which will do him good.

‘I signed Daniel from Enfield, he is a good player. ‘I am just so bored of this type of behaviour in this day and age – it is 2012 we should have moved on.’

The 69-year-old minicab boss involved in the row by sending an e-mail from his Addison Lee account to his local paper comparing the noises made by Ailey to those of female tennis stars, such as Maria Sharapova.

His comments were made public sparking anger from charities, and today he issued an apology for causing any offence.

He said: ‘I regret any offence caused by my comments. This was certainly not my intention and I apologise.’

Sharapova has reached levels of 101 decibels, which is the equivalent of an aeroplane landing while other female tennis stars such as Serena Williams have also been accused of making a lot of noise while playing.

Williams’ grunt is more low pitched than Sharapova’s but is still the equivalent noise level as a jackhammer, at 88.9 decibels.

Mr Griffin, who lives in a luxury house in Potters Bar and is believed to be worth £50million, sent the e-mail to the Welwyn & Hatfield Times news reporter Paul Christian who reported on the original story.

In the e-mail he said the police at the ground should have ‘demanded’ the profoundly-deaf player ‘discontinue’ the way he communicates.

He also said: ‘I long ago gave up watching women’s tennis due to the loud and [un]acceptable level of grunting.

‘I note that the police were called and I hope they demanded that the footballer should discontinue making noises that could be misinterpreted by members of the crowd.’

And now Action on Hearing Loss has now slammed both his astonishing e-mail and the sick taunts made by some of Grays football fans.

Rebecca Griffin, the charity’s head of PR and campaigns, said: ‘We are very disappointed by the reported lack of deaf awareness shown by a section of the supporters and hope, in future, they show more respect to a talented footballer who is trying to overcome communication barriers during matches.

‘We are also extremely concerned by the comments made by Mr Griffin and expect they will be seen as a spectacular own goal by many of his company’s customers who are deaf or hard of hearing.’

Meanwhile a spokeswoman for Addison Lee said: ‘Our Chairman has apologised for the comments made and for any offence that has been caused.

‘Addison Lee is an equal opportunities employer and we are strongly committed to employing disabled people as is demonstrated through our membership of the ‘Two Ticks’ scheme.’

Ailey was subjected to the taunts when he came on as a 66th minute sub during the home game on October 23, which Grays Athletic won 2-0.

Police were called but left shortly afterwards when it appeared that the abuse had stopped.

And Peter Waller, 61, chairman of Potter’s Bar Town FC, described the abuse from the away fans as ‘unacceptable’.

He said: ‘We are not happy at all with the behaviour on that day. The incident has gone to the FA and we hope they will deal with it seriously. This is an issue that needs to be discussed – it is unacceptable to abuse any players.

‘Mr Griffin is entitled to have his say, but imagine if we had all laughed at disabled athletes at the Paralympics.

‘It does not matter what noises Daniel makes on the pitch, the only important thing is that he is a good footballer.’

It is not the first time that Mr Griffin has been involved in a controversy, back in April he told his drivers to break the law by using bus lanes in London.

The self-made top Tory donor and father-of-two also lost a money-spinning £4million Government contract the same month in a bitter cash row.

Mr Griffin, who founded Addison Lee in Battersea, south London, in 1975 with one car, also infuriated the city’s tens of thousands of cyclists in April.

The Private Hire Car Association chairman wrote in his in-house magazine Add Lib: ‘These cyclists are throwing themselves on to some of the most congested spaces in the world.

‘They leap on to a vehicle which offers them no protection except a padded plastic hat.

‘Should a motorist fail to observe a granny wobbling to avoid a pothole or rain drain, then he is guilty of failing to anticipate that this was somebody on her maiden voyage into the abyss.

‘The fact is he just didn’t see her and however cautious, caring or alert he is, the influx of beginner cyclists is going to lead to an overall increase in accidents involving cyclists.’

Addison Lee carries a up to 10million passengers a year as well as making 1million courier deliveries.


Tyneside taxi driver desperate for money flouted ban

SHAMED taxi driver Gavin Spence was caught ferrying passengers around Tyneside despite being banned from the roads.

Spence was disqualified from driving for six months in August after racking up 12 points on his licence.

But less than two months later, the 48-year-old was back behind the wheel and working as a taxi driver.

He was only caught out when he was stopped by police in Stamfordham Road, in Newcastle’s West End, in the early hours of October 14.

Officers pulled him over because of a headlight out, the city’s magistrates heard, but they realised something was wrong when they ran a routine check on his licence.

It showed Spence, who was carrying three passengers in his Skoda Octavia, had been disqualified since August and wasn’t allowed back on the roads until February.

He was arrested and pleaded guilty to driving while disqualified and driving with no insurance.

Edith Sanderson, prosecuting, said: “PC Curvey and PC Gitten were on duty in a patrol car on Stamfordham Road, in Newcastle.

“They saw a silver Skoda Octavia travelling along the road with a front headlight out. Officers stopped the vehicle.

“The vehicle was being used as a taxi and had three male passengers onboard.

“The officers spoke to Mr Spence and PC Curvey conducted a driving licence check and it appeared he had been disqualified from driving for six months in this court on August 20 this year.

“He was about two months into his disqualification at the time of the stop.”

Spence, of Brigham Avenue, Montagu Estate, Newcastle, was arrested and taken to Etal Lane Police Station, where he admitted the offence.

Representing himself, Spence said: “There’s not much I can say.

“I’m not proud of it, but needs must, and I just desperately needed the money.”

Spence, who is now unemployed, was given a 12-month community order and ordered to do 180 hours’ unpaid work, reduced to 120 hours for his guilty plea.

He was also ordered to pay a £60 victim surcharge and banned from the roads for a further six months.

He was given an absolute discharge for driving with no insurance.

The council confirmed his hackney cab licence had been revoked.

Nick Batty, a spokesperson for road safety charity Brake, said: “Anyone who flouts a driving ban or drives without insurance is showing a complete disregard for the law.

“Taxi drivers have the added responsibility of being in a position of trust with a duty of care for their passengers.

“Speeding is dangerous behaviour with potentially devastating consequences, and it is crucial that repeat speeding offenders are punished and serve the bans imposed.”


Stoke-on-Trent councillor ‘helped’ taxi driver win licence back

A CITY councillor helped a friend’s son win back his taxi licence less than six months after he was convicted for an assault which left another driver with a broken jaw, it is claimed.

Labour’s Majid Khan, below, voted in favour of reinstating convicted Azan Ahmed’s license while sitting on Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s licensing and registration panel – despite admitting he knew the Ahmed family.

The Etruria and Hanley councillor is accused of breaching the council’s code of conduct by failing to declare a prejudicial interest in the case. He faces a hearing on Monday.

Hanley Park and Shelton councillor Amjid Wazir will face a similar allegation, related to the same vote, at a later hearing.

Mr Khan was due to serve as the city’s Lord Mayor this year but quit as deputy to focus on clearing his name.

The allegations relate to a licensing hearing in April 2011, where Azan Ahmed won back his taxi license at the third time of asking. Mr Khan admits to knowing Azan Ahmed’s father Zulfacar Ahmed, who is also a taxi driver.

In September 2010, Zulfacar Ahmed’s sons Azan and Kasam, and his brother-in-law Jameel Bashir, admitted assault causing actual bodily harm after attacking taxi driver Mohammed Bashir at Stoke station.

They were sentenced to a 12-month supervision order by Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court, ordered to carry out unpaid work and pay £2,000 compensation.

Mr Khan said his wife used to take Zulfacar Ahmed’s children to school and he has visited the family’s home for weddings and funerals. He acknowledged a ‘personal interest’ at the meeting but decided not to declare a prejudicial interest, which would have excluded him from the vote.

In her written evidence in a report ahead of Monday’s meeting, Labour councillor Joy Garner, who was the panel’s chairman at the time of the unanimous vote in Azan Ahmed’s favour, said she was ‘surprised’ Mr Khan took part in the hearing.

She added: “I was very unhappy with Councillor Khan’s decision.”

Mrs Garner said the panel followed legal advice in supporting Azan Ahmed’s application, which she was opposed to, but that Mr Khan was in favour of supporting it.

Mr Bashir, aged 52, of Shelton, said: “I feel very let down by the city council. I am still suffering from the assault.”

Clare Clarke, the authority’s deputy monitoring officer, investigated the case.

A decision on Mr Khan’s conduct will be made by the panel, but Ms Clarke’s report concludes that Mr Khan’s decision to declare a personal interest was sufficient.

In April, Mr Khan was hit with a formal warning for breaching the members’ code of conduct by failing to declare that he knew a taxi firm owner before voting on his licence application. He denies any wrongdoing.

In a statement, he said: “The only time I would go to their house would be for weddings or funerals. I have never been to any family member’s house to socialise. I might have called to request money as I do monthly for the mosque. I would also have spoken to them if I had seen them in the street or at the mosque.”


London cab drivers ‘warn of taxi shortage’

London taxi drivers have warned of a shortage of black cabs in the capital during the festive season, one of the trade’s busiest times of year.

Hire companies have warned that demand is outstripping supply in the run-up to Christmas, with some part-time drivers – who generally hire in November to work over the holidays – reporting long waiting lists or a complete absence of vehicles.

Renny Raphael-Campbell, owner of a taxi-hire company in north west London told the Financial Times that other would-be drivers are “being laughed at for asking”.

“The demand for vehicles completely, massively outstrips supply,” Mr Raphael-Campbell said. “We have drivers who have been out of vehicles for three weeks who can’t find one to work.”

At the end of last month, Manganese Bronze, the maker of London’s iconic black cabs, appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers as administrators after talks to secure funding were unsuccessful.

Falling sales, five years of losses and more competition had led Manganese to the financial brink.

The decision to order 400 black cabs off the road because of a power steering fault pushed it over. The company was worth just £3m when its shares were suspended two weeks ago.

Last week, the company’s administrators made 156 people redundant with immediate effect.

As well as the recalled cabs, hansom cabs that are 15 years or older are also being pulled off London’s streets as part of a clean air strategy.

“We’ve got a perfect storm,” taxi driver Graham Spero told the FT. “All sorts of things have come together at the wrong time.”

Mercedes-Benz now claims around 40pc of the London taxi market, which was supplied solely by Manganese Bronze until 2008.

Mercedes told the FT that it had sold 40 cabs last month, compared with 18 in September. “This has not been sprung on the trade overnight,” said Peter Da Costa, whose company distributes Mercedes taxis. “There’s a shortage of cabs for people to rent, but not for people to buy.”


Private Hire driver denies causing death of Redcar teen by careless driving

Craig Williamson and Kirsty Louise Fennon

A private hire driver has denied causing a teenage girl’s death by careless driving.

Kirsty Louise Fennon, 18, lost her life when she was hit by a private hire car on the A1085 Coast Road between Redcar and Marske.

The popular student, of York Road, Redcar, was killed while walking along the road following a night out.

A 46-year-old East Cleveland man has been charged in connection with her death.

Craig Williamson made a brief appearance before Teesside Magistrates’ Court yesterday .

Williamson, of Byland Road, Skelton, is accused of causing death by careless driving.

Members of Kirsty’s family were in court when the driver pleaded not guilty to the charge.

It is alleged that Williamson was exceeding the 40mph speed limit at the time of the accident.

It happened at 4.50am on Good Friday on a 40mph stretch towards the Marske end of the Coast Road.

It is said Kirsty was struck by a Skoda Octavia private hire car driven by Williamson.

The teenager was walking along the Coast Road towards Marske when the tragedy happened.

Unfortunately Kirsty’s injuries were not survivable and she died at the scene.

At the time devastated parents Peter and Allison Fennon paid tribute to their “amazing” daughter, who would have turned 19 a month after her death.

They said: “It’s apparent that in her short life she has touched many people’s hearts.

“Kirsty was the most loyal friend that anyone could have wished for and she will be sadly missed by everyone.”

Tribute pages were also set up on the internet in memory of the teenager.


Australia: Smartphone apps for private hire vehicle bookings “illegal”, says NSW govt

A new smartphone app launched in Sydney that allows customers to book private hire cars instead of taxis may be illegal according to the New South Wales government.

Uber and Dash, two new apps that have soft-launched in Sydney, connects customers to private hire car drivers who can then book their services on demand. Unlike popular taxi booking apps like GoCatch, Ingogo, Taxi Pro and myTaxi, Uber and Dash allow customers to connect to private hire car drivers instead of licensed taxi hires.

Private hire vehicles differ from licensed taxis in that they need to be pre-booked and do not allow pick-ups from the street. According to the Passenger Transport Act, it is also required that the fare be agreed in the booking process for private hire vehicles. However, Uber and Dash are alleged to be operating in a legal grey area as cars linked to these apps can be booked minutes in advance of the pick-up and do not adhere to an agreed fare during the booking process. While Uber and Dash list standard fares on their app site ($8 base far with an additional $3.25 per kilometre for speeds over 18 km/hr and $1.25 for speeds below 18 km/hr), the prices aboard these private hire vehicles vary based on distance travelled, speed and time in reality.

A Transport for New South Wales spokesman said: “The use of any technology to work out fares based on speed or time by a hire car driver operator is an offence. Should a complaint be lodged against a driver or operator about the use of the equipment, Roads and Maritime Services has powers to investigate and prosecute drivers and operators for using this technology.”

Taxi booking apps already available on smartphones like GoCatch claim that Uber and Dash are blurring the distinction between taxis and a private hire vehicle. Both Uber and Dash maintain that their apps are based on legal advice and uphold the sound nature of their business.


Cabbies furious at campus ban

Taxi drivers are furious after a student union banned them from picking up passengers on campus in the evening.

Last month, University of Leicester Students’ Union banned all but one minicab firm – Street Cars – from driving on to the campus in the evening.

It is understood the firm paid about £10,000 for the privilege – a figure neither the union nor company would confirm.

A spokesman for the students’ union said the move was designed to improve safety.

Cabbies said it could put them out of business.

Black cab driver Gurpal Singh Atwal, secretary of the RMT Union in Leicestershire, said: “We have been proud to pick up students and staff in the evenings for 40 years and this decision is unfair.

“Drivers who are not with this chosen firm are losing about £100 a night.

“We have families to feed and people will go out of business.

“The union is giving the work of 10 companies to one.

“It says it is safer to make this decision and cheaper for students, which suggests other firms are dangerous and expensive. That is not true.”

Cabs used to drive on and off campus via Mayor’s Walk, off University Road, even though the road was exit only.

It has now been blocked and Street Cars is allowed to enter the university via Wyggeston Drive, using a swipe card to open the barrier.

Drivers exit via Mayor’s Walk, where they pick up fares.

Dan Flatt, academic affairs officer at the union, said: “This decision was solely taken to prevent a serious accident – and, from the evidence so far, is working very well.”

He said the service involved fixed-price journeys, a voucher scheme for students short of cash and the vetting of drivers.

“This is a service tried and tested in other cities, notably Birmingham and Leeds,” Mr Flatt said.

“We are obviously concerned that an important group of business people are distressed, but there have been many efforts to prevent cabs driving the wrong way on to the campus, to no avail, so the closure of this road was inevitable.”

The union said Street Cars was chosen after a tendering process which saw four or five firms invited to bid for a one-year contract.

Kully Singh, owner of Street Cars, said his firm was chosen because of its low fares and in-car technology.

“We won the contract on the basis of our prices as well as the service we offer,” he said.

Mr Atwal said: “Big firms said they were not contacted. If they had told us black cabs, I’m sure we would have clubbed together to offer more money.”

Man arrested after bogus taxi driver sexually assaults woman in Wigan

Police arrested the driver of this Nissan X-Trail after a passenger claimed she was assaulted

A 57-year-old man was arrested after a woman was sexually assaulted by a bogus taxi driver in Wigan.

Police say a 29-year-old was the victim of an “appalling sexual attack” in the Beech Hill area after being picked up in the town centre at around 4.10am on Sunday October 14.

Now officers are appealing to two women to come forward who they believe might be vital witnesses.

Two weeks after the initial attack, police arrested a 57-year-old man on Warrington Lane, Lower Ince, on suspicion of sexual assault, after a genuine taxi driver came across him.

Earlier in the night the genuine taxi driver had been approached by a young woman who told him that she had seen an appeal from the police on Facebook and that they were looking for the driver of the silver Nissan X Trail in connection with sexual offences.

This young woman told the taxi driver that the Nissan had attempted to pick up one of her friends but she left before the taxi driver could take her details.

When the man was arrested, a young woman was inside the Nissan, but she left before the police arrived.

Police are now appealing for these witnesses to come forward.

Officers are also appealing to other women who may have been approached by a man driving a Silver Nissan X-Trail, or who have seen this vehicle in suspicious circumstances.

The woman who spoke to the taxi driver was said to be in her late 20s or early 30s, of a medium build with shoulder length dark hair and wearing a maroon jumper.

She spoke to the driver near the taxi rank at Brocol House, King Street.

The second woman, said to be in the car, was white, in her late teens to early 20s, of a slim build with bleached blonde hair and wearing a cream or white short dress.

The man arrested has been bailed until 14 November 2012 pending further police enquiries.

Detective Constable Craig Hurst of Wigan CID said they “desperately” need to speak to witnesses to put the offender behind bars.

He said: “Firstly, it is right we should reassure both the victim of the original sexual assault, and the wider community, that we have made an arrest and while there are clearly a number of inquiries still to be made, we are progressing very well with our investigation.

“We now desperately need to speak to these two women as they could hold crucial information that will help us put the offender of this appalling sexual attack behind bars.

“I would therefore appeal to these two women, if they are reading this appeal, to get in touch with police immediately.

“I want to emphasise that these women have done nothing whatsoever and that we simply want to speak to them about what they know.

“I would also continue to ask anyone who has information about either the original sexual assault, or the whereabouts of the silver Nissan X Trail vehicle over the last two weeks, to call us.”

Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 7259 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Taxi driver was punched by takeaway food drunk

A THUG punched a taxi driver in the face and left him needing hospital treatment after being told not to eat takeaway food in his cab, a court heard.

Kevin Middleton, 26, of Melbourne Road, Winshill, hit Nadeem Alam so hard that it chipped three of his teeth and caused swelling and bruising to his face as well as cuts on his lips.

The attack happened at 2.30am on October 13 when Middleton reluctantly got out of an Alpine Taxi based in High Street, Burton.

Zoe Speake, prosecuting at Burton Magistrates’ Court, said: “The defendant and two other men got into a cab supplied by Alpine Taxis.

“The driver asked the men to get out while they were eating food and as the defendant left the cab he punched him hard in the face before running off down High Street.

“The driver was so badly injured that he had to go to Burton Queen’s Hospital where he was advised to take pain killers and to visit his dentist as soon as possible.

“Middleton was arrested and told officers that he thought the taxi driver had been racist towards him and that’s why he lashed out.

“The defendant has a lengthy list of previous convictions with the latest being assault in August and drunk and disorderly in September.”

Suki Ark, defending, said his client caused problems when he was intoxicated and had since quit drinking alcohol altogether.

Mr Ark told the hearing: “He can’t recall much from the evening as he was drunk — he can just remember waking up in a police cell.

“All of his offending happens when he is drunk and he knows this type of behaviour cannot carry on.

“He is a father of a young child and he needs to sort his life out.

“He has decided to knock the drink on the head to avoid getting into trouble again.”

The case was adjourned for a fast delivery report before sentencing.

Middleton was released on unconditional bail and ordered to reappear at the Horninglow Street courthouse on Monday.


Manganese Bronze Holdings plc, LTI Limited, MBH Services Limited and MBH Property Services Limited in administration

For all media enquiries please contact:

Elizabeth Faulkner, media relations, PwC, 020 7213 1018, 07877 758 609

Derek Nash, media relations, PwC, 020 7804 3058, 07703 470 224,

Manganese Bronze Holdings plc, LTI Limited, MBH Services Limited and MBH Property Services Limited – in administration

Matthew Hammond, Tony Barrell, Ian Green and Mike Jervis were appointed joint administrators of Manganese Bronze Holdings plc, LTI Limited, MBH Services Limited and MBH Property Services Limited (“the Group”) on 30 October 2012.

The Group is the manufacturer and retailer of the iconic London taxi, sold in the UK and abroad. It provides a retail and maintenance service through its wholly-owned dealerships throughout the UK, under the trading name The London Taxi Company. It has a turnover of £75m and 277 employees in total including three overseas employees. 175 employees are based at the Group’s head office and manufacturing site located in Coventry with the remaining employees spread across dealerships in London, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Coventry.

The culmination of several issues led to the Group being placed into administration. The Group has been making losses for four years due to a combination of poor UK sales, supply chain issues, and high warranty costs. These issues were further impacted by the discovery of material accounting errors in the first half of 2012 which increased the extent of the Group’s losses. More recently, the discovery of a steering fault resulted in the recall of circa 400 vehicles and a suspension of sales which had an immediate detrimental impact on the Group’s cash flows.

Following a suspension of its shares earlier this month, the Group has been unable to secure sufficient funding. Without financial support to overcome these operational issues, the Group came to the conclusion that it could not continue to trade as a going concern. As a result the directors placed the Group into administration. LTI Limited is concentrating all its resources on fixing the steering fault. The administrators have entered into discussions with key stakeholders to secure funding to support the business through this period whilst the administrators seek a sale of the business and assets as a going concern

Matthew Hammond, joint administrator and PwC partner, said:

“Our immediate priority is to secure funding in order to explore the options rapidly developed by the Management team and key suppliers to resolve the steering box recall. We are reviewing the existing financial position to develop a range of options to rescue the business or alternatively dispose of it to an investor that can continue the business to a secure future for the iconic London Black Cab. We have immediately commenced discussions with an encouraging list of UK and International interested parties and would encourage any further interested parties to contact us as a matter of urgency.”



1. Table: Number of employees based at each of the company’s dealerships  London Manchester Leeds Glasgow Edinburgh Coventry Employees 55 26 6 3 12 2

2. General Customer Enquiries: Tel: +44 (0)24 7657 2000, Fax: +44 (0)24 7657 2001

3. Creditor/Supplier queries: Adam Huckerby, 02476 572 076

4. Employee queries: Diane Perkins, 02476 572 077

5. Sale of business: Matthew Hammond, 0121 265 6670 or Darren Jukes, 0207 804 8555

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