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Uber driver suspended for 6 months after illegally picking up undercover officer without a pre-book

Image credit: Pixabay

A private hire driver licensed by Bristol City Council, and working on the Uber ride-hailing app, has been suspended by the council's licensing committee for accepting a fare which was not pre-booked.

The unnamed driver agreed to transport a plain-clothes PCSO who was acting as a passenger.

As the journey began, the driver was pulled over by PC Quinton, who was part of the undercover sting operation.

The PCSO confirmed to PC Quinton that the driver had agreed to transport him for £9. The driver confirmed during the stop that he was plying for hire. He, at a later date, changed his story saying that it was a mistake and that he thought the PCSO was “Zack”, another booking received via Uber.

During his licensing hearing, the driver maintained that he was confused, that he thought the PCSO was "Zack" and after he realised the error, he did not want to stop the journey for the PCSO.

The council's licensing committee checked with PC Quinton to see if the Uber story added up. Uber confirmed to PC Quinton that the booking for "Zack" was made after the PCSO was picked up, proving that he was not being honest.

It also came to light that upon inspection of the vehicle at the time of the stop, PC Quinton found defects with the vehicle lights.

During his licensing hearing, the applicant gave the following evidence:

-He confirmed that has been driving professionally for 16 years. He has experienced no problems with council previously and has no points on his licence. He has no criminal offences on record either.

-He also stressed in his defence that it was very difficult to get work during lockdown. He also said that he had some serious family problems to deal with, including relatives dying from Covid.

-He said he did not know why he picked up the PCSO, his mind was occupied and he did not even get the money up front.

-He also said that he did not believe it was fair to do undercover police work on drivers in these circumstances.

During his summing up, the driver said that this was during a particularly hard time where his family is facing financial hardship. He did not get a job after 2 hours of starting his shift. He reiterated his previously clean record.

After questioning from the committee, the following information was confirmed:

-One offence was driving without insurance. It was confirmed that the only had insurance for acting as a private hire driver. During this incident he had picked up someone without pre-booking and therefore the insurance was not valid as he was plying for hire without the appropriate licences in place.

-The vehicle has since passed a vehicle inspection, so the necessary repair work to the lights has been carried out.

-The driver picked up the PCSO at 0150, the Uber record shows a booking for Zack at 0151. This is a very short time window, so members wanted to know whether this could have been an honest mistake. The GPS data supplied to PC Quinton by Uber shows that the vehicle was carrying the PCSO when the Uber booking was made.

The committee concluded that the PHV licence of the driver be suspended for a period of 6 months.


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