A County Durham taxi driver has been prosecuted for refusing to allow a woman’s assistance dog into his cab.
The driver, who told the woman he could not take her as he had nowhere to put the dog, was caught during an operation by Durham County Council.
Following complaints from the public that taxi drivers were refusing to take guide dogs, the council decided to carry out the operation using volunteers.
On Friday 11th November at around 10.30 pm, a volunteer and her guide dog approached the taxi of David Nattrass, from West Cornfield, at a rank in Durham City. The volunteer was accompanied by a fair-trading officer wearing hidden audio and video recording equipment.
After being asked to take them to another location in Durham City, the driver asked where he was going to put the dog.
The officer replied the dog could go in the front passenger footwell, but the driver said he was on duty until 3.00 am and the car would have to be cleaned afterwards so refused to take them.
The volunteer then tried the next taxi on the rank, which accepted the fare.
Nattrass was later asked to attend an interview under caution, during which he admitted refusing the fare.
The Equality Act of 2010 states that taxi drivers have to take guide dogs and other assistance dogs at no extra cost. The act also states that drivers must not treat passengers less favourably on account of disability.
At Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court on Wednesday, Nattrass pleaded guilty and apologised for his behaviour. He received a conditional discharge and was ordered to pay costs of £100 in addition to a victim surcharge.
Durham County Council’s head of environment, health and consumer protection, Joanne Waller, said, “Refusing to carry a passenger with an assistance dog is an offence under the Equality Act 2010.”
“While we know the vast majority of drivers we license comply with this legislation, this prosecution proves we will take action against anyone who does not.”
“It is unacceptable for drivers not to carry passengers with assistance dogs and this man now has a criminal record as a result of his actions.”