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London taxi drivers lose legal challenge questioning ride-hailing firm Uber’s validity to operate in the capital

26 Feb 2019

 

London taxi drivers have lost a legal challenge questioning ride-hailing firm Uber’s validity to operate in the capital.

High Court Judges Ian Burnett and Michael Supperstone today dismissed the legal challenge brought forward by cabbie representatives United Trade Action Group (UTAG) describing the allegation of bias as “tenuous,”. The judges added that the evidence brought forward to the court was reminiscent of “the old song with the lyrics ‘I danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales,”.

UTAG, fully funded by the taxi industry, were challenging a Westminster Magistrates Court decision in June to grant Uber a 15-month probationary licence after the controversial ride hailing firm had their licence revoked by regulators Transport for London on the grounds of safety concerns.

Cabbies from UTAG challenged Judge Arbuthnot’s Magistrates Court decision. Their lawyer, Robert Griffiths, said the decision was based on “wholly unsatisfactory reasoning.”

UTAG lawyers also suggested that Arbuthnot’s ruling was also “tainted by actual or apparent bias” because she decided in August, just two months after her original ruling, not to hear a further case involving Uber. Newspaper reports revealed that her husband worked for a strategy firm that had links with the one of Uber’s respective investors, Qatar Investment Authority.

In a statement made by Trevor Merralls and Angela Clarkson, Directors of the United Trade Action Group, they told drivers: “Just three months ago, very few had heard of United Trade Action Group. In that short time period, UTAG has made our intentions patently clear that we shall fight to defend our trade from those that wish to seek us harm.

“We have gained tremendous support from both sides of our fragmented industry, this illustrates the broad injustice and frustration felt by all. To date, we have been overwhelmed by the support, both vocal but most importantly financial, for without, we could not pursue the course of legal actions we identified to protect our illustrious industry. The desire to work professionally and collaboratively is evident from the volumes of donators and we intend to continue with this unified path, ignoring the neigh sayers.

“At UTAG we started a movement, a movement based on the will of the people, a movement that has put our detractors on notice that the London taxi trade, the best taxi service in the world, is not going to sit idly by and allow others to dismantle us one piece at a time. We have shown that when we stand shoulder-to-shoulder, we can be a formidable force. The ongoing ITA protests are an indication of the resolve this industry has.

“Our Judicial Review was a fight that the trade wanted to have based on a series of circumstances that appeared to link the Judge of Uber's licensing appeal, to Uber. Winning, although morale boosting, was never going to be a 'game changer' for the trade and the same applied to a loss. UTAG's arguments on behalf of the trade, were found to be meritorious by Mr Justice Walker, and we took on a formidable challenge, by challenging the Judiciary, demonstrating to all, our very deliberate intentions to fight wherever and whomever necessary to retain our jobs. Regrettably that initial challenge has proved to be insurmountable and we have learned that our submissions on bias have failed, as has our arguments regarding the granting of a probationary license.

“However, the failure to win the JR does not mean that UTAG fails, we shall fight on. To attain your badges, each one of you have already proved that you are fighters, you didn't give up at the first set back and neither shall UTAG. You fought to gain your badges and we must continue the fight to defend them.

“Naturally, we are disappointed with the judgment but rather than comfort ourselves with self-pity, we must move on, time is not on our side. Our industry must not lose sight of our end game, nothing turns on this verdict, we must maintain our determination and desire to hold accountable those who have caused us harm. Our next course of action against TfL is set out on our website” 

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