Five drivers have been successfully prosecuted this week, on Monday 25 November, for unlawfully plying for hire in Cheltenham, during Cheltenham Festival 2019.
All five drivers attended Cheltenham Magistrates Court and entered a guilty plea for the offences of plying for hire and driving without valid insurance, after stopping their vehicle for council enforcement officers during an undercover taxi operation at the busy race festival in March.
A further five cases are also pending prosecution. On Tuesday 12 March, an Audi A3 driven by Mr Jamie Herbert (age 19), of Cheltenham, was stopped by officers. Mr Herbert holds only a DVLA driving licence and is not a hackney carriage driver.
Following his guilty plea, Mr Herbert was ordered to pay a fine of £120, a victim surcharge of £30 and costs of £300 – totalling £450; six penalty points were also imposed by the magistrates.
In the evening of Tuesday 12 March, a Seat Ibiza was driven by Mr Wiktor Michalak (age 22) of Bishops Cleeve in Cheltenham. Mr Michalak holds only a DVLA driving licence and is not a hackney carriage driver.
After entering his guilty plea, Mr Michalak was ordered to pay a fine of £392, a victim surcharge of £39 and costs of £350, totalling £781. Six penalty points were also imposed by the magistrates.
Also during the same evening Mr Ahmed Farooq (age 39) of Gloucester, stopped in his Skoda Octavia, a private hire vehicle licensed by Gloucester City Council.
After establishing the driver was free and available, a price for the journey was agreed and officers got into the car, before requesting that the driver pull over.
As a private hire driver, Mr Farooq can only lawfully carry passengers who have booked their journey in advance through his Gloucester operator.
After his guilty plea, Mr Farooq was ordered to pay a fine of £346, a victim surcharge of £34 and costs of £400 – totalling £780. Mr Farooq also received 6 penalty points.
On the morning of Wednesday 13 March, a black Nissan Juke driven by Mr Jonathan Thomas (age 27) also of Gloucester, stopped in response to two council enforcement officers.
The vehicle driven by Mr Thomas was found to have been hired by a rental firm for the week. Mr Thomas holds only a DVLA driving licence and is not a hackney carriage driver. After entering a guilty plea he was fined £415, victim surcharge of £41 and costs of £500.
The magistrates also imposed 8 penalty points, however due to points already imposed on his DVLA licence, he was subsequently disqualified from driving for 6 months.
Council enforcement officers on Friday 15 March, approached a Volkswagen Sharan displaying a private hire vehicle licence by South Gloucestershire Council.
After establishing the driver Mr Mustaf Ali, (Age 35) from Bristol, was free and available, and a price for the journey was agreed, officers got into the car before requesting the driver pull over.
After his guilty plea, Mr Ali was ordered to pay a fine of £230, a victim surcharge of £30 and costs of £500 – totalling £760. Mr Ali was also given six penalty points.
Sarah Hughes, Licensing Enforcement Officer, said: “These prosecutions give a warning to drivers who wish to capitalise on the additional footfall to Cheltenham during Gold Cup week that we will take action should they operate unlawfully.
“Where drivers prosecuted are taxi or private hire drivers, the local authority in which they are licensed will be informed of any prosecutions and these authorities may then refer the matter to their licensing committee to review the drivers licence. Ultimately a driver found guilty of these offences may end up with a fine, points on their DVLA driving licence and their professional licence being revoked.
“The public should be made aware that if they get into a vehicle not operating lawfully, they will not be covered by insurance in the event of an accident. The council urges the public to ensure that the vehicle that they get into is properly licensed, either by pre-booking a private hire vehicle in advance through an operator or by taking a journey with a Cheltenham licensed hackney carriage vehicle.
“Our enforcement officers will continue to carry out spot checks and monitor activity during major race meets.”
Image credit: Flickr - Carine06