A Sunderland taxi driver who refused to take a guide dog in his cab has been fined and may face disciplinary action.
Goran Abdullah, of Farringdon, was caught in a sting operation mounted by Durham County Council following complaints about drivers in Durham City refusing to take guide dogs.
A council investigator accompanied by a registered blind person and an assistance dog asked Abdullah and another driver called Ullah Khan to take them on a local journey.
Both drivers refused the fare saying they were allergic to dogs which meant they did not have to take assistance dogs, Peterlee Magistrates’ Court heard.
“The test purchases were made at the rank in the Prince Bishop’s Centre in Durham City,” said Catherine Hazell, prosecuting on behalf of Durham County Council.
“The drivers were each asked to take the two people and the assistance dog to the Garden House pub.
“Both refused, saying they were allergic to dogs.
“The test purchase officer asked the drivers if they had a medical exemption certificate, both said they had, but checks revealed they did not have certificates.”
Ms Hazell told the court all drivers had been written to in 2016 to advise they would need to apply for an exemption.
“Since this offence in April, 2017, Mr Khan has applied for and been granted an exemption certificate,” added Ms Hazell.
“Mr Abdullah has not applied for a certificate, he has produced a letter from his doctor but it is insufficient for this purpose.”
Abdullah, 35, of Avonmouth Road, Farringdon, Sunderland, and Khan, 37, of Hillhead Road, Westerhope, Newcastle, both admitted refusing to take an assistance dog on April 7, last year, contrary to the Civil Equality Act, 2010.
Graham Jameson, defending both men, said: “They are hardworking family men, and there is nothing to suggest they are people of malice.
“Mr Khan has since been granted a certificate, and Mr Abdullah wrongly believed his doctor’s letter was sufficient to comply with the regulations.
“Mr Abdullah has a wife with health problems, and a child.
“He struggles to make ends meet, and is helped in that regard by members of the Kurdish community.
“The conclusion of this case will not be the end of it for either driver.
“It is inevitable the taxi licensing committee will take an interest in what’s happened today.”
Each driver was ordered to pay £599 in fines and costs.
Bench chairman Keith Parker told the drivers: “It is obviously important no members of the community should suffer discrimination.
“Both of you had been informed of the policy and regulations, so there is no excuse for not complying.”
Speaking after the case, Joanne Waller of the council’s environment department, said: “While we know the vast majority of drivers comply with the legislation, a minority refuse to take passengers with assistance dogs.
“We hope the financial penalties and the criminal convictions these two drivers find themselves with will serve as a deterrent to other drivers who may be minded to follow their example.
“We are serious about taking appropriate action when offences such as this occur.”