Taxi driver prosecuted after refusing to take assistance dog
A taxi driver has been left with a criminal record after refusing to let a passenger with an assistance dog into his vehicle.
David Nattrass, 64, of Oswald Close, West Cornforth, was caught telling a woman he would not take her fare because he had nowhere to put her assistance dog, as part of an operation we carried out.
Following complaints by members of the public that guide dogs had been refused by taxi drivers within Durham, we carried out a test purchasing exercise with volunteers and their dogs to assess whether there was a problem in the area.
On Friday, 11 November 2016 at around 10.30pm, a volunteer and her assistance dog approached a white Renault Megane at the night-time rank on Leazes Road in Durham City, accompanied by a Fair Trading officer who was wearing audio and video recording equipment.
After being asked by the officer to take them to another location in Durham, the driver enquired about the dog and where he was going to put it.
The officer replied that the dog could go in the front passenger footwell, but the driver stated that he was on duty until 3.00am and that the car would have to be cleaned afterwards and refused to take them. The second vehicle on the rank accepted the fare.
After establishing Nattrass as the driver of the vehicle, he was invited to attend interview under caution, during which time he admitted he had refused the fare.
The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on taxi drivers to carry guide dogs and other assistance dogs at no extra cost, while the driver must not treat the passenger any less favourably because of their impairment.
At Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court on Wednesday, Nattrass pleaded guilty and apologised for his actions and was given a six-month conditional discharge.
He was also ordered to pay partial costs of £100 and a victim surcharge, all of which must be paid in seven days.
Joanne Waller, our head of environment, health and consumer protection said "Refusing to carry a passenger with an assistance dog is an offence under the Equality Act 2010.
"While we know the vast majority of the drivers we licence comply with this legislation, this prosecution proves we will take action against anyone who does not.
"It is unacceptable for drivers not to carry passengers with assistance dogs and this man now has a criminal record as a result of his actions."