Uber driver ‘sped off after spotting visually impaired passenger and her daughter, 15, had a guide dog’

  • Claire Currie, from Liverpool, left by Uber driver ‘because of guide dog’ 
  • The ‘shaken’ mother was trying to take daughter to a hospital appointment
  • Uber are investigating and the driver may lose access to the popular app 

A minicab driver may permanently lose access to Uber after a passenger claims her and her daughter were left stranded because he spotted they had a guide dog.

This is not the first time Claire Currie, from Mossley Hill, in Liverpool, has been refused a minicab because of her guide dog Purdey.

The mother-of-four, who used to be a teacher, has a genetic condition leaving her with extremely limited vision, which she described is like ‘seeing through a straw’.

Her dog Purdey was helping her take her 15-year-old daughter to an appointment at Alder Hay Children’s Hospital.

Claire Currie, from Liverpool, has been left worried about her and her daughter’s independence after she believes an Uber taxi driver drove off because they saw her guide dog, Purdey

But the incident has left her feeling shaken and she is worried it has knocked her daughter’s confidence too, after she is starting to be affected by the same condition.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo Ms Currie said: ‘I have a condition which means my vision is extremely restricted – it’s the equivalent of looking through two straws – so I like to use the app as it’s really accessible.

‘We’ve been refused access to taxis before now, but I’ve never experienced it with Uber. Usually drivers are really helpful and they’ll move the seat back to make space for the dog and make sure that everyone is comfortable.

Ms Currie was trying to take her daughter to Alder Hay Children’s Hospital (pictured) and is worried the incident has knocked her confidence as she is also starting to be affected by the condition
‘On this occasion though he just drove off – it’s really disheartening. The reason you get a guide dog is so that you can get your independence back and get your life back, and situations like this do knock your confidence.

‘Purdey is my third guide dog, and it’s down to them that I’ve been able to be so independent. They really are life changing so it’s so upsetting when somebody tries to take that away from you.’

Ms Currie explained that although her daughter’s vision is ok at the moment, it is likely to deteriorate and she wants to show her that life will still be ok and she can be independent, but incidents like this don’t help.

She added: ‘My daughter’s vision is fine at the moment, she struggles in the dark but is mostly fine – but her condition will get worse over time and eventually she will have very limited vision like me.

‘I try to lead by example and show her that she can be independent but I worry that situations like this will knock her confidence and worry her for the future.

Ms Currie has been refused other taxis in the past and also believes it is because of her guide dog

‘In the past when I’ve been refused from taxis she’s been the one to stick up for me, but I worry that she wouldn’t stick up for herself in the same way.’

According to the popular taxi app, Uber bosses are investigating the report and said if any driver is found to refuse a service animal, they will ‘permanently lose access to the Uber app.’

Uber admit they are investigating what happened to Ms Currie and say it is ‘totally unacceptable’

An Uber spokesperson told the local paper: ‘It’s totally unacceptable for drivers to refuse to take a guide dog and we are investigating this report.

‘Licensed private-hire drivers must carry service animals in their vehicle and we remind all drivers of this legal obligation before they start using the Uber app. Any driver who is found to have refused to take a service animal will permanently lose access to the Uber app and risks having their private hire licence taken away.’

Lynette Proctor, engagement officer for Guide Dogs Liverpool added: ‘It is incredibly disappointing to hear about Claire’s experience. This is the first access refusal we have had from an Uber driver in our area.

‘Shockingly, for people living with sight loss being refused access to a taxi or private hire vehicle because they are accompanied by a guide dog happens far too often.

‘It’s not only illegal, it knocks people’s confidence and stops them doing the everyday things that most people take for granted.

‘At Guide Dogs we want tougher sentences for drivers who turn away assistance dog owners.’

WHY DO TAXI DRIVERS HAVE TO TAKE GUIDE DOGS?

Under the Equality Act 2010 all drivers and public transport operators have to take guide dogs, and any other assistance dogs, at no extra cost.

They must not treat the guide dog owner less favourably because of their impairment.

Under the Act, there may be occasion for an individual driver to hold an Exemption Certificate which relates to a specific medical condition.

But it is not acceptable to refuse transport for religious or cultural beliefs, a view that is supported by the Muslim Shariat Council.

A guide dog owner equally has responsibilities to ensure that the dog is clearly an assistance dog, through use of a harness and/or identification card.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Updated rules on offenders applying for taxi licences in Barrow in wake of Rotherham child abuse scandal

NEW guidelines have been approved spelling out when former offenders can become taxi drivers in Barrow.

A policy review for licensing hackney carriages and private cars has been completed and given the green light.

According to the policy’s wording, offenders convicted of murder, manslaughter, rape, and other serious crimes will have their application refused “unless there are exceptional circumstances”.

The Barrow Council’s Executive Committee said its policy on taxi licensing had to be updated following the child abuse scandal in Rotherham, and the role taxi drivers played.

Former offenders applying for licences will have to wait a period of time from when they were first convicted, or from their release if they were sent to prison.

People convicted of indecent exposure or soliciting would have to wait between five and 10 years before their application would be considered.

Arsonists, violent offenders and those convicted of racially aggravated crimes would also have to wait five years.

Committee chairman Councillor Dave Pidduck said: “As a council we have to make sure that all our policies are up to date.

“These are changes in that policy to reflect the modern situation.”

Councillor Brendan Sweeney and Cllr Pidduck both commented on the difficult task it was to draw a line in the sand for offences.

Cllr Sweeney said: “I think the licensing committee spend a lot of time looking at the individual cases. You have to draw the line between a mistake that someone made in the past or if there is no risk.

“Some one has to be able to make a living.”

Cllr Pidduck spoke of how taxi drivers should not be exempt from safeguarding regulations.

He said: “Safeguarding is so important now. They are in a position of trust.”

The new policy will also introduce changes to make sure taxi drivers are fit to drive.

New applicants will have to provide a medical certificate showing they are fit. Drivers over the age of 55 will be required to prove they are fit to drive every three years.

Drivers will also be required to complete a one-off knowledge test on the area, their understanding of the highway code and numeracy.

Some taxi drivers have supported the changes however there has been criticism these changes, and the charges they incur will push drivers out of the business.

In a public consultation, an anonymous taxi driver wrote: “I feel that I don’t see why we should have to pay to prove that I can do my job.”
Drivers will also have to require a DVSA driving assessment, however, this is no longer provided in Barrow – the nearest assessment centre is in Lancaster.

As a solution, Cllr Sweeney has called for an enterprising local business to start providing this service, he said: “There is a clear commercial opportunity for a local firm to take that up.”

source: http://www.nwemail.co.uk/

‘Despicable’ taxi driver banned from driving after blaming wife for his traffic offence

A ‘despicable’ taxi driver has been banned from driving for 18 months after attempting to pervert the course of justice by blaming his wife for his own traffic offence.

Ibrar Suleman’s Mercedes taxi was seen driving through a red light in Sheffield in February.

Suleman eventually responded to letters and emails about the incident to claim that his wife had been the driver at the time – but an investigation found he had been working that day and had accepted a job around 40 minutes before the incident.

Both Suleman and his wife were arrested, with the taxi driver eventually pleading guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice. Suleman, aged 40 and of Infirmary Road, Chesterfield, was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and disqualified from driving for 18 months.Judge

Recorder Anthony Kelbrick told the defendant:

“It is despicable that a man should drag his wife into his own offending, blame her, have her arrested, taken to the police station and interviewed for a criminal offence.

“You should be utterly and thoroughly ashamed of yourself.

“You should have better respect for your wife.”

Read more at: http://www.thestar.co.uk/

Fined: Old Trafford football fan taken for a ride by overcharging taxi driver

The football fan was travelling back to Manchester Airport after the game at Old Trafford

A TAXI driver has been ordered to fork out almost £600 after duping a football fan into paying double fare from Old Trafford to Manchester Airport – which he had claimed was the passenger’s idea.

Hackney carriage driver Farzin Kheshvari has been convicted of overcharging a customer he picked up earlier this year.

The victim, a football fan, had travelled with his son to watch Manchester United versus Arsenal back in February and hailed a cab to head back to Manchester Airport after the match.

Kheshvari refused to put the fare on his meter but instead insisted on a fixed fee of £35 upfront for the journey. If 8.3 mile journey had been on the meter, it would have cost approximately £19.

The passenger felt he had been taken advantage of and lodged a complaint with Trafford Council. Kheshvari initially refutes the claims, maintaining that it was the passenger who had insisted on paying £35 for the journey.

Kheshvari pleaded guilty at Manchester and Salford Magistrates on October 7. He was fined £80 for failing to engage the taxi meter, £40 for charging more than the metered fare, ordered to pay costs of £453 and a victim surcharge of £20.

Cllr John Reilly, executive member for economic growth, environment and infrastructure, said: “This conviction reinforces the Council’s commitment to protect members of the public. The general public should be able to trust taxi drivers to comply with the rules and regulations and not to take advantage of them.

“The council has adopted byelaws that compel hackney carriage drivers to put fares on the meter when the destination is within the Trafford area or within four miles of the Trafford boundary, as is the case with the airport.

“The council investigates all complaints against licensed drivers, whether they are private hire or hackney carriage drivers, and will continue to enforce against those abusing their position of trust.”

Kheshvari will now be referred to the council’s licensing sub-committee and may face further sanction.

Anyone wishing to lodge a complaint against a Trafford licensed vehicle are asked to email the licensing team on licensing@trafford.gov.uk.

source: http://www.messengernewspapers.co.uk/

Cambridgeshire taxi firms slam council delays in granting licenses

Taxi firms claim they are missing out on dozens of potential jobs a day – as the council delays applications by up to two months.

South Cambs Taxis Ltd (SCT), based in Sawston, says that delays in setting up appointments with South Cambridgeshire District Council are ‘damaging’ small businesses.

Prospective drivers have been forced to look elsewhere for employment, unable to wait more than eight weeks to find a job.
The council claims that the delays are because of an ‘increase in applications’.

“Turning away jobs”

Neil Payne, managing director of SCT, said: “We applied for a driver today to go and have put in his paperwork at South Cambs council, but couldn’t get an appointment until mid November.

“The appointment system seems to have got worse in the last month and I’ve struggled for a few years trying to find good drivers. I’m having to turn away minimum 20 jobs a day.

“Cambridge and the surrounding areas are growing so much. There’s a need for drivers. But small businesses like myself are struggling.”

To become a taxi driver first requires a DSA driving test, for which an appointment can take up to six weeks.

After they pass their test, drivers have to submit their application forms, as well as take a medical which is signed and stamped by a doctor. This now takes up to eight weeks.

Drivers then have to apply for a DBS check, which takes up to six weeks, before they can fully register to become drivers for taxi companies.

“Any drivers that are coming along now to support us over the Christmas period are not going to get a license before January,” said Mr Payne.

“It’s just red tape all the way. I’m just turning more work away than I can take because I haven’t got drivers.

“Yes they’ve got to do their checks, yes they’ve got to be correct and the drivers have to have clean records, but all the government bodies are slowing it all down.”

Interested drivers delayed

Cambridge City Taxis (CCT) is another company struggling to find drivers.

The service currently has 49 drivers but recognise that they need more to respond to the growing need in Cambridge.

David Wratten, managing director of CCT, said: “It just seems there must be another way to get round this and to get the paperwork in earlier.

“It needs to change. It’s got more difficult. I’ve had three people who’ve been interested in coming to work but they’ve been delayed in trying to get the process finished.”

“Checks are important”

A South Cambridgeshire District Council spokesman said: “An increase in the number of taxi licence applications we have received recently has meant that it has been taking us longer than we would have liked to sit down with applicants.

“We are sorry for the delays during this time but are pleased to be able to confirm that we have worked through most of the backlog and nearly all new applicants are now being sat down with within two weeks.

“New online systems we have put in place for DBS checks, formally known as CRB checks, as well as checks we need to carry out with the DVLA, have also seen the time it takes to process the applications fall by more than half.

“Clearly the checks are very important to make sure only suitable drivers are licensed.”

Read more at http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/

Black taxi drivers march in protest over minicab medical tests

Around 100 cab drivers marched in protest today at TfL’s lack of medical regulation of mini cab drivers.

Black cab drivers staged a demonstration in Southwark after learning of allegations minicab drivers are allegedly using loopholes to pass medicals.

An independent investigation revealed mini cab drivers were able to pay certain doctors for a medical pass.

London Drivers Club chairman Grant Davis said that TfL was putting public safety at risk. He said: “today is about raising the profile of what’s going on, it’s not cab drivers moaning about Uber.

“TfL has got a duty to protect the public and they’re not doing that.”

Mr Davis added that he had spoken to TfL after the investigation who had told him the problem could take three years to fix.

He added: “They told us it’s a GMC problem.

“They said the only way around it was to wait for three years until the driver’s need to have their medicals again. “It’s not good enough.”

Cab drivers with placards lined both sides of the street to demonstrate over what they thought to be a lack of regulation.

Black cab driver Kevin O’Connor called on TfL to launch a public enquiry. He said: “It’s the world of health and safety so how are they getting away with it.”

Black cab drivers must take a medical exam at their registered GP every three years, costing £150 a time.

Dennis Saunders, who has been a London cab driver for more than 20 years, said: “we don’t go into this job thinking we’ll be millionaires.

“All we want to do is provide an honest living for our families.

“Soon Uber will have full control of the market, then they won’t be cheap.

“We’re the heart and soul of the city and we’re the eyes and ears.”

source: http://www.standard.co.uk/

Taxi driver caught with £250,000 in his Skoda

A taxi driver who was caught out for being involved in a £2million money laundering racket has been jailed after being found with £250,000 on the back seat of his car.

Authorities found the cash in a bag on the back seat of Waqas Ilyas’ Skoda when they swooped in April, 2015, the Manchester Evening News reports.

Investigators then uncovered another £36,435 hidden under his mattress at his Manchester home and a ledger which detailed a month of dodgy transactions worth a huge £1.7million.

Ilyas, 35, and his partner Nazia Ghafar, 31, a saleswoman, were arrested and claimed the cash was linked to the ‘hawala’ alternative money transfer system.

Investigators found the cash in a bag on the back seat of Waqas Ilyas’ Skoda

The system is used by people without a bank account to transfer cash, particularly in the Middle East, Africa and Indian subcontinent.

As it is unregulated in many jurisdictions, it is also used to launder criminal cash.

Ilyas and his partner at first denied the crime but changed their pleas on the eve of a trial when faced with overwhelming evidence.

Following months of investigation under the codename Operation Katowice, officials from HM Revenue and Customs swooped on Ilyas’ 2005-registered Skoda Octavia, only worth about £3,000, and found a bag stuffed with £248,880 in cash on the back seat.

They carried out another search at the home he shared with Ghafar in Melville Road in Stretford and they found a further £36,435 hidden under their mattress in a JD Sports carrier bag.

Also uncovered was a ‘ledger book’ which listed transactions totalling £1.7million covering a one month period.

The pair had initially denied money laundering under the Proceeds of Crime Act but they changed their pleas on the eve of their trial at Manchester Crown Court.

And they didn’t challenge the seizure of the cash.

Ilyas was jailed for four years while Ghafar was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence.

The investigation did not establish which crime – for instance drug dealing or tax fraud – had generated the criminal cash.

Following the hearing, Richard Wentel, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: “This couple realised their weak explanations would not stand up in court and finally admitted their crimes.

“HMRC will not tolerate this illegal economy. If there is no legitimate reason for bundles of cash like this we will seize it – explain it or lose it.
“Crime doesn’t pay and we will always target money laundering.

“I would urge anyone who has information about this type of activity or witnesses suspicious large cash transactions to call the 24-hour Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”

source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/

Mum of girl injured in horror smash ‘furious’ that private-hire driver is back on the roads

The mother of a little girl who was left brain damaged after a crash with a private-hire says she’s “absolutely furious” that the driver is back in the profession.

Jessica Bootes was just four when she was seriously injured in a horror road crash on the A194 near Lindisfarne Roundabout, in Jarrow in March 2014.

Parents Lisa and Chris Bootes Newcastle s RVI with daughter Jessica, after her accident at age four.

The youngster, now seven, spent 11 days in a coma and had to have the left side of her skull removed, and suffered paralysis down the right side after the five-car collision.

Private-hire driver Amir Azad, of Lilac Road, South Shields, smashed into the back of the family car while they were stopped at traffic lights and was fined £250 and given six penalty points at South Tyneside Magistrates Court.

South Tyneside Council later revoked his private-hire license, but he has now secured one with Newcastle City Council and is working as a private-hire driver.

Jessica’s mum, Lisa, from Harton, South Shields, said: “I’m absolutely furious. A court deemed him unfit to drive on the roads in South Tyneside so how can he go to Newcastle and get a licence?

“This man gets to walk about every day and get on with his life when he ruined my family’s lives.”She added: “She can’t cope with being in a car for more than 10 minutes.

She doesn’t feel safe. I get panic attacks too and can’t drive long distances.

“I’m going to fight this. I don’t care what I’ve got to do or how long it takes.”

A Newcastle City Council spokesman said: “

A private hire driver’s licence application was considered and granted by the council on November 2015.

“All applications for a private hire licence must follow a robust legal framework and are considered by committee in accordance with guidelines issued by the Department for Transport and Home Office.

“Every application is subject to a rigorous checking process and is carefully considered. Convictions, cautions and driving licence endorsements are all taken into account and we rely on the Disclosure & Barring Service and DVLA vetting procedures together with advice from Northumbria Police.

Mr Azad refused to comment when he was contacted by the Gazette.

Read more at: http://www.shieldsgazette.com/

Uber driver dragged her out of his car because she ‘wasn’t talking properly’

A cancer survivor whose illness left her with a speech impediment claims an Uber driver dragged her out of his cab because she ‘wasn’t talking properly’.

Sam Barbic, who has a hole in her neck, said the driver screamed at her and grabbed her arm to pull her from his vehicle outside her home in London.

The 45-year-old said she was then charged £5 for the cancelled journey, leaving her ‘baffled’ and ‘horrified’ by the experience, which Uber has pledged to investigate.

Sam Barbic said the driver screamed at her and grabbed her arm to pull her from his vehicle outside her home in London

The operation – a laryngectomy – saw her voice box removed, meaning she now speaks softly, with long pauses, by pressing against the hole in her airway.

Sam, 45, from Kensal Rise, said: ‘I got the standard Uber text saying he had arrived, so I went downstairs to find him. I walked round the corner and saw the car but he drove off.

‘So I called him – the first thing I always say is that I have had an operation, please bear with me.

‘I have had a total laryngectomy from throat cancer so my voice is faint with lots of pauses and very gravelly.

‘He kept saying he couldn’t hear me and hanging up. I rang him three times asking him to come back and pick me up.’

Sam was diagnosed with cancer five years ago and had her entire throat removed and replaced with parts of her intestine

Sam then saw there was a function on Uber to text the driver so messaged him explaining she had had a throat operation and could he come back to pick me up.

She added: ‘I then got in the car and asked him why he had driven off. He immediately said: “Get out of the car, I’m not driving you”.

‘I was stunned. I asked what the problem was and explained I had had throat cancer and that was why my voice was funny.

‘He just kept saying: “Get out the car, get out of the car now”. The more I tried to explain to him the more he insisted I get out.

‘He then got out of the car and opened the passenger door screaming at me to get out. I went to get out of the car and he took hold of my arm to ensure I got out of the car.

‘He then drove straight off leaving me standing there. I was in a terrible state, in shock, horrified at how I’d been treated and baffled as to why.

‘I no longer breathe through my nose or mouth and have a hole in my neck where I breathe. I wear a plaster over this so it is very clear to anyone I have had surgery.

‘I used to wear a scarf but I find people respond better when they can see I have a problem than when I try to hide it.’

Sam said: ‘The only thing I was thankful for was that I was outside my flat and not stranded in the middle of nowhere trying to get home.

‘I emailed Uber a complaint about him and got an automated reply saying the matter was resolved. They also charged me £5 for cancelling the fare.

‘They have since called me saying they are extremely concerned about the incident but I missed the call. When I tried to call back, I couldn’t get through.

‘I had extensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy but was told my only option for survival was a total laryngectomy.

‘This involved removing my entire throat and building me a new throat with my intestine.

Sam, who works as a set designer, was hoping to travel to Covent Garden to meet a friend when the incident allegedly occurred at around 6.45pm on Thursday

‘My voice box was removed as part of the surgery and I spent one year unable to speak at all, but following further surgery had a small valve installed which enabled me to talk.

‘In order to speak I have to press the hole in my neck to block the airway and send air into my mouth so I can make sounds.

‘My speech is understandable but takes a bit of time to get used to as I have to pause for breath a lot.

‘It’s not very loud and I’ve been told I sound a bit like Darth Vader, but I’m hardly threatening. I’m a short middle-aged woman.’

An Uber spokesman said: ‘We would like to extend our sincerest apologies to Sam. We’re looking into this as a matter of urgency.

‘We’re waiting to speak to all parties so we can fully investigate this incident and take the appropriate action.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Illegal private-hire driver fined at court

A man has been fined after being spotted driving a taxi in Burnley without a private hire licence.

Abdul Majeed, of Albert Street, Brierfield, pleaded guilty driving a private hire vehicle without a current licence, and guilty to using a vehicle without insurance.

He was fined £120 and ordered to pay £200 costs and a £30 victim surcharge by Burnley magistrates.

He also had eight penalty points put on his driving licence.

The court was told that Majeed held a private hire driver’s licence between October 2012 and October 2015.

However, when he applied to renew his licence the application was refused by Burnley Council, a decision upheld by magistrates on appeal.

On May 12th this year a council officer was at a Burnley petrol station when he saw a Vauxhall Vectra car displaying private hire signage at one of the pumps.

He recognised Majeed who put fuel in the car, paid up and then drove off in it.

Majeed was subsequently asked to attend an interview under caution but despite several requests he refused to make himself available or keep appointments, the magistrates were told.

In July a council officer spoke to the operator of the private hire firm involved who said he had been on holiday at the time of the offence and knew nothing about it.

He confirmed Majeed did not have permission or authority to drive the private hire vehicle. As such Majeed was not insured to drive it.

Read more at: http://www.burnleyexpress.net/