A taxi driver who refused to take a fare from a couple because they had a guide dog has been fined by the courts.
Mohammed Jassim, 48, from Springfell, Birtley, was approached by the couple at taxi a rank on North Road, Durham, in July.
He told them that he was not willing to allow them in his vehicle because of the dog.
The couple explained that the animal was a guide dog and told Jassim that he needed an exemption certificate in order to refuse the fare.
Jassim said he did not have a certificate, but still refused the passengers - who gave up and got in another taxi.
Durham County Council took action against the driver because he did not have a certificate allowing him to decline the fare.
In an interview with officers from the authority, Jassim said he had apologised to the pair and explained that he could not take the fare because he had an allergy.
He confirmed that he did not have an exemption certificate and records show that he has still not applied for one.
Jassim’s solicitor, Jonathan Pigford, told magistrates at Newton Aycliffe that his client had tried to explain his allergy to the couple but they had ignored him.
He also produced evidence from Jassim’s doctor showing that he had an ongoing problem with his chest and possible asthma.
Magistrates imposed a £63 fine and ordered Jassim to pay £220 in legal costs and a £30 victim surcharge.
Joanne Waller, Durham County Council’s head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: “The Equality Act provides legislation to protect the rights of disabled people.
"Under this legislation, taxi drivers are duty-bound to take passengers with assistance dogs.
“It is possible for drivers to apply for an exemption certificate. However, in this case, the defendant did not have such an exemption so the law applies to him in exactly the same way as any other driver without a certificate, regardless of any allergy he may have.
“The law is very clear on this matter and we ensure this requirement is covered in our tests prior to drivers becoming licensed.
"We will also continue to pursue legal action against drivers who refuse to take fares from passengers with an assistance dog where they have no valid reason to do so.”