By Nick Gill
Monday, March 26, 2012
A TAXI driver who refused to take a blind man’s guide dog could have his licence revoked if he commits another offence.
Abdul Hasan, who works for Gary’s Taxis in Letchworth GC, has been given 10 penalty points on his taxi licence and a formal caution by North Herts District Council (NHDC) following a disciplinary hearing.
At the hearing Mr Hasan admitted he refused to carry assistance dog Chipp, who was accompanying Sean Dilley, after the 29-year-old had arranged for the cab to pick him up from Letchworth Sports and Tennis Club in January.
Mr Dilley, who lives in Stevenage, said he was told by Mr Hasan he would not take the dog because he was a Muslim and wouldn’t breathe in dog hairs.
Mr Dilley, who was born partially sighted and has been blind for 15 years, subsequently made a complaint to NHDC, which licenses taxis in the district.
The council gave out the penalty points and caution after accepting Mr Hasan’s explanation that he did not understand either the council’s Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy, the Equality Act 2010 or the meaning of the term ‘an assistance dog’.
If Mr Hasan commits a further offence in the next two years he would be called back in front of the council’s head of housing and public protection who would decide whether he is a fit and proper person to hold a licence.
Andy Godman, NHDC’s head of housing and public protection, said: “The council takes this issue very seriously and has thoroughly investigated all the legal and religious issues regarding Muslim drivers carrying assistance dogs. We hope that the penalty awarded will send a clear message that NHDC does not tolerate breaches of our policy on this matter, however we are satisfied that the case hinged on a misunderstanding on the driver’s part rather than an explicit refusal to assist a disabled person.”
Mr Dilley, who works as a freelance political broadcaster, said: “I am satisfied that Mr Hasan did not act out of malice towards me, and am happy to accept an unreserved apology from him. I am also satisfied that the council acted quickly to investigate the matter and that their judgement is fair.
“Ultimately, I hope that my case will highlight to other taxi drivers the legal position around carrying assistance dogs, so that this doesn’t happen to anyone else. The clear message has gone out that if you’re not prepared to take assistance dogs in your taxi without a consultant’s medical exemption certificate, you’re not a fit and proper person to be doing this trusted job.”
Gary’s Taxis and Mr Hasan declined to comment.