A Taxi Operator and two drivers from Ipswich have been prosecuted by Babergh District Council for private hire vehicle offences committed in September 2016.
On Tuesday 30 May 2017, representatives from J R Travel Ltd, based at Little Copdock House, Old London Road, Copdock, appeared before Ipswich Magistrates and pleaded guilty to two offences of employing drivers without the relevant licences.
Magistrates took into account the guilty plea and assurances by directors Mr Andrew Fisk and Mr Ian Tooke, before ordering them to pay a total penalty of £1,140.48, including £300 of fines, a £30 victim surcharge and £810.48 legal and investigation costs.
The two drivers, Christopher Bates of Lower Street, Sproughton and Murugaiyah Gnanauthayan of Siloam Place, Ipswich, previously pleaded guilty to the offences of driving private hire vehicles without the relevant licences during an earlier hearing in April. Mr Gnanauthayan received an absolute discharge by the court due to mitigating circumstances while Mr Bates was ordered to pay £330.
These offences came to light as a result of an investigation by Babergh, when it was discovered that Mr Bates had been driving without a valid private hire vehicle driver’s licence for all the journeys he undertook for J D Travel during September 2016. The company had failed to realise that his licence had expired, and Mr Bates claimed he had also been unaware of this, following a change of address which he had not advised the Licensing Authority of, meaning that he had not received his reminder. During the course of the investigation, it was also revealed that Mr Gnanauthayan had undertaken work for the company, using one of their cars, despite not holding a driver’s licence with Babergh District Council.
The Magistrates gave the company credit for their guilty pleas and their reassurance that systems had now been improved to prevent unlicensed drivers being allocated bookings. However, they stated that they recognised that the legal requirement for drivers to be licensed provides protection for the public and that it is important that businesses ensure full compliance.
James Buckingham, Corporate Manager – Sustainable Environment, said “We are pleased that both the Magistrates and the company recognised the seriousness of this offence. Private hire drivers hold a position of responsibility and when booking a private hire vehicle, residents place their trust in the operator and assume that the driver is a fit and proper person, particularly if customers are vulnerable. By not ensuring that licences were up to date, JR Travel failed to safeguard their customers. I am pleased to hear that their systems have been changed and I hope this case will serve as a warning to other operators”.