Two taxi drivers who refused to take passengers with assistance dogs have been ordered to pay more than £500 each.
Goran Abdullah and Shafqat Ullah Khan were both parked at the rank at Prince Bishops in Durham City on the evening of 7 April 2017 when they were approached by a volunteer. The volunteer, who is registered blind, was accompanied by their assistance dog and a Durham County Council officer.
On both occasions, the officer asked the taxi drivers to take them to a local pub to which they replied they could not have a dog in their cars as they were allergic.
When advised it was against the law not to take an assistance dog, both men claimed to have exemption certificates but that they did not have them with them.
Later checks confirmed neither men had such certificates.When interviewed under caution, Mr Abdullah, of Avonmouth Road in Sunderland, said he knew it was against the law to refuse an assistance dog but denied saying he had an exemption certificate.
The 35-year-old, who has been a taxi driver for over five years, also produced a letter from his doctor in the interview but this was insufficient to confirm he had an allergy.
In his interview, Mr Khan, from Hillhead Drive in Newcastle, who has been a taxi driver for nearly three years, stated he had never been treated for an allergic reaction to dogs.
Tests carried out earlier in Pakistan showed the 39-year-old is allergic to parrots, dogs and cats and since his interview he has applied for and been granted a medical exemption certificate.
Peterlee Magistrates’ Court heard that both men had apologised to the local authority and had believed they had exemptions due to their medical evidence.
They were ordered to pay fines of £169, costs of £400 and a victim surcharge of £30 each.
Joanne Waller, Durham County Council’s head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: “While we know the vast majority of the drivers we license comply with all relevant legislation, a minority refuse to take passengers with assistance dogs.
This practice is an offence under the Equalities Act, unless a driver has a valid exemption certificate, and we will not tolerate it in County Durham.
“We hope that the financial penalties and the criminal convictions these two men find themselves with will serve as a deterrent to other drivers who may be minded to follow their example and show that we are serious about taking appropriate action where offences like this occur.”