A Carlisle taxi driver has said refusing a fare from a visually-impaired woman and her guide dog was the biggest mistake of his life.
Dilwar Ali had his Hackney carriage driver’s licence suspended for four weeks because he would not take Lydia Hulme and her guide dog Bertie to her Carlisle home on June 26.
He has personally apologised to Miss Hulme and when he came before Carlisle City Council’s regulatory panel he told members: “I’m sorry. It is the biggest mistake I have made in my life and it won’t happen again.” Miss Hulme, 26, is no stranger to being left standing in the road and had already had a taxi drive off without her from the taxi rank in Warwick Road that evening. She then approached the Court Square taxi rank, near Carlisle Railway Station, at about 10.35pm, where Mr Ali’s white saloon car was first in line.
She reported that he refused to take her and Bertie, stating he had allergies, and so she asked to see an exemption certificate. But she said Mr Ali again stated “allergies” and gestured her to the next taxi.
In an interview with licensing officer Fred Watson, Mr Ali said he refused Miss Hulme because her guide dog was large and he was afraid of big dogs, having been bitten when he was 15.
And when asked if he suffered from any allergies he said he had none. At yesterday’s hearing Mr Ali, who was unrepresented, said Miss Hulme had “mistaken” their short conversation.
When asked by Mr Watson how he could carry on being a taxi driver if he was scared of dogs, Mr Ali explained that he would usually take a fare when there were two people with a dog.
He said he’s now aware of how well trained guide dogs are and that in future he would be confident in taking them.
He was reminded that by law, a taxi driver cannot refuse to carry any pets unless the person in charge of the pet is not in control.
“It’s not a small mistake from my point of view. I realised it was a huge mistake,” Mr Ali told the panel.
Miss Hulme accepted Mr Ali’s apology and said she forgave him for his actions that night.
But she said: “It’s just upsetting that because I have got my disability, it’s hard to get a taxi.
“I have had taxis drive off before at other ranks across the country and at Carlisle.”
The panel’s chair councillor John Bell explained the reasons for the decision were that it was “unacceptable” for the driver to refuse to convey a passenger or their assistance dog. It was against the law and council policy, he said.
Mr Ali’s offence failed to comply with a duty imposed by the Equality Act 2010 in which a taxi driver must carry the disabled person’s dog and allow it to remain with that person.
“You had received training [a disability awareness course in April 2016] and still refused the fare.
“You have a duty of care and left a passenger late at night vulnerable and potentially unable to get home, so you have been suspended for a month,” said Mr Bell.