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Preston taxi firm refused to pick up visually impaired woman with assistance dog and must now pay the price for breaking the law

Posted on - 7th June, 2019 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Charities, Deepdale, Preston City Centre, Preston News
When the taxi firm operator heard an assistance dog would be on board, they said no driver would be available Pic: Amy_Gillard
When the taxi firm operator heard an assistance dog would be on board, they said no driver would be available Pic: Amy_Gillard

A Preston taxi firm has been fined and ordered to pay compensation after refusing to pick up a visually impaired woman.

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Eagle Taxis were taken to court for breaking the Equality Act, by the woman who is the campaigns officer for the RNIB.

On 15 November 2018 around 4pm Ms Terri Balon, who has a visual impairment, phoned the Preston taxi firm to book a trip from Preston North End to the city’s railway station.

She had been attending an event and had an assistance guide dog with her.

After confirming the booking with the phone operator she advised them she would be travelling with the dog.

The taxi firm’s operator then said they did not have any dog friendly drivers available.

Despite the caller telling the operator it was not lawful to refuse the booking, they insisted there was nothing they could do and ended the call.

Preston Magistrates Court heard a guilty plea from the Fox Street cab firm and ordered them to pay £1,000 compensation to the complainant, a £200 fine and a total of £579.04 costs.

During the hearing, it was noted by District Judge McCormack the company had entered an early guilty plea, offered a full apology and said it was an isolated incident and had put steps in place to prevent future incidents.

Read more: New taxi ranks planned for Fishergate side streets

Regional campaigners officer for the Royal National Institute for the Blind Ms Terri Balon brought the case to court.

She said: “It was a horrible experience, but I am glad that the company has pleaded guilty.

“I and other guide dog users should have the same access to taxi services as everyone else. A guide dog is a vital mobility aid, and drivers should not be refusing us just because we have to use our dogs for support.

“Under the 2010 Equalities Act it is illegal for a taxi or private hire vehicle to refuse to carry a blind or partially sighted person in a taxi because they are a guide dog user. Drivers should never refuse a passenger with a guide dog or charge them more money for a journey. Drivers with a medical condition that prevents them from assisting passengers or from carrying dogs in their vehicle have to apply for an exemption certificate.”

Cabinet member for planning and regulation at Preston City Council councillor Peter Moss said: “This has been a very distressing time for the complainant, and I’m pleased it was a favourable outcome at Court.

“Booking a private hire vehicle is an act many of us take for granted, but when your independence relies on others following the law it’s something that’s always on your mind.

“Our licensing team work diligently to ensure private hire drivers and companies are fulfilling their duties and operating within the law.”

Read more: Taxi becomes stranded on Fishergate Bollard structure

What’s the law under the Equality Act?

Introduced in 2010, section 170(1) and (4) state it is illegal for a private hire vehicle operator to refuse a booking from a disabled person with an assistance dog.

A maximum fine of £1,000 can be imposed.

A driver cannot refuse to carry the assistance dog unless they hold an exemption certificate issued by the local authority.

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