Richmondshire councillors have pledged to continue their crackdown on unlicensed taxi drivers after a Hawes man was convicted of fraud this week.
Council officers had uncovered information that Rodney Bell had been working as an unlicensed driver – while also claiming an insurance pay out for injuries sustained in an accident which he said meant he could not work.
That led to a joint investigation with the City of London Police and his appearance in court this week. Bell received a two year prison sentence – suspended for two years – and was ordered to observe a curfew between 9pm and 7am. He was also ordered to wear a monitoring tag and given a 30 day ‘rehabilitation action requirement’.
He was convicted under the Fraud Act 2006 – he had claimed to be unable to work as a result of injuries from a road accident in 2007, but was found by District Council enforcement officers to be operating an unlicensed taxi in Richmondshire. He had ‘returned to work’ but still claimed £42,000 on an insurance policy which covered him when not working.
The information shared between the District Council and the City of London Police was instrumental in demonstrating that he had actually “returned to work” and had been fraudulently claiming compensation since the accident.
Public safety is at the heart of the licensing of taxis with legislation requiring that vehicles and their drivers are licensed by the local authority. This allows for important checks to be made on vehicles to ensure they are safe to be on the road and those driving and operating a business need to meet strict conditions on their health, driving ability and criminal record.
“Our licensing team oversee this process and we will not hesitate to take action, by working with partner agencies if appropriate, to deal with those that try to get around these tough measures,” said Corporate Director, Callum McKeon.
“This case serves as a very stark reminder that we will not hesitate in taking action to keep our communities safe. Bell not only claimed money he was not entitled to he was operating illegally – something we take very seriously. “