Three drivers have been successfully prosecuted for unlawfully plying for hire during Cheltenham Festival 2019.
The drivers stopped their vehicles for Cheltenham Borough Council enforcement officers during an undercover taxi operation during the busy race festival.
The first driver, Mr Aamir Mehmood (age 40) of Gloucester, attended Cheltenham Magistrates Court on Monday 13 January 2020 where he entered a guilty plea for the offences of plying for hire and driving without valid insurance on Thursday, 14 March 2019.
Mr Mehmood, who was driving a Ford Mondeo, holds only a private hire licence issued by Tewkesbury Borough Council and therefore can only lawfully carry passengers who have booked their journey in advance through Mr Mehmood`s Tewkesbury operator.
Following his guilty plea, Mr Mehmood was ordered to pay a fine of £200 for the offence of plying for hire, costs of £200 and a victim surcharge of £32. He was also fined £323 for no insurance and six penalty points were imposed.
The second driver, Mr Abidoon Basharat (age 34) of Cheltenham, did not attend court on 13 January but was found guilty in his absence for the offences of plying for hire, and driving without insurance, on Wednesday, 13 March 2019 in his Ford Focus. Mr Basharat holds only a DVLA driving licence and is not a hackney carriage driver. The court sentenced Mr Basharat to a fine of £300 for plying for hire, costs of £200 and a victim surcharge of £66. He was also fined £660 for having no insurance and six penalty points were imposed on his licence.
On Monday 27 January 2020, a third driver, Mr Ali Abdi (age 55) of Bristol was ordered to pay fines totalling £733, for the offences of plying for hire in his Vauxhall Zafira on Wednesday 13 March 2019 and having no insurance, he incurred eight penalty points. Mr Abdi was also ordered to pay costs of £135 and a victim surcharge of £55. Mr Abdi is a licensed private hire driver for South Gloucestershire District Council.
Cllr Andrew McKinlay member for development and safety said: “So far the council has prosecuted eight drivers for plying for hire during Cheltenham Festival in March 2019 with additional court cases pending. We are hopeful that these prosecutions give a warning to drivers who wish to capitalise on the additional footfall to Cheltenham during Gold Cup week and we will take action should they operate unlawfully.”
Sarah Hughes licensing enforcement officer continued: “Where drivers prosecuted are taxi or private hire drivers, the local authority in which they are licensed will be informed of any prosecutions and these authorities may then refer the matter to their licensing committee to review the drivers licence. Ultimately a driver found guilty of these offences may end up with a fine, points on their DVLA driving licence and their professional licence being revoked.
“If a member of the public gets into a vehicle not operating lawfully, they will not be covered by insurance in the event of an accident. We’d like to remind everyone to check that the vehicle that they get into is properly licensed, either by pre-booking a private hire vehicle in advance through an operator or by taking a journey with a Cheltenham licensed hackney carriage vehicle.”
Cheltenham Borough Council enforcement officers will continue to carry out spot checks and monitor activity during major race meets.