Taxi driver broke equality law by refusing to allow guide dog into cab

Taxis are legally obliged to pick up assistance dogs unless exempt by the local authority  Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Taxis are legally obliged to pick up assistance dogs unless exempt by the local authority Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

An Ipswich taxi driver has been fined for refusing to allow an assistance dog into her cab.

Susan Frost, 51, was taken to court under equality legislation for spurning the pre-booked fare in Holly Blue Close on October 9.

Frost, of Anchor Street, who appeared before magistrates on Tuesday for failing to accept a booking by a visually impaired woman, admitted breaching the Equality Act but insisted her behaviour was not discriminatory.

Borough council prosecutor Richard Essex said Frost was not exempt from the law when she went to the woman’s home.

“Taxi drivers are legally bound to carry a person with a guide dog, unless they have an exemption on good medical grounds,” added Mr Essex, who said drivers had been reminded of their obligations in the ‘Taxi Times’ publication.

Frost, a licence holder for five-and-a-half years, was driving for Hawk Express Cabs at the time.

Mr Essex said: “The victim was a severely visually impaired regular Hawk Express customer.

“It is customary to be contacted a few minutes before pick-up but she was unable to answer the call.

“When she heard an engine, she went outside and bumped into the car. She tapped the window and the driver said ‘I’m not taking a dog’. She said it was a guide dog, but the driver said ‘I don’t care, it’s still a dog. I don’t have to do it.’

“The driver claimed she had an allergy and was unaware the customer would have a dog.”

Frost handed up evidence of ongoing medical tests for allergies and claimed she had not known about the customer’s needs.

“I only did school runs for the first two years of my licence, so I never applied,” said Frost, who told magistrates she previously worked in health care and did not discriminate against disability.

“I pushed the ‘arrive’ button and waited. I was going to ‘no-show’ the job because I had no idea who I was picking up.

“My head was down and I didn’t notice her until she banged on the window. I wasn’t abrupt.

“I told her I was allergic, but I understand why she was angry and I apologise.”

Frost was fined £250 and told to pay the same amount in costs.

Stephen Connelly, borough licensing committee chairman, said: “We will not tolerate any form of discrimination. It is an offence to refuse to carry people and their assistance dogs and we want to get the message across that we will take action against any driver who flouts the law.”

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