Posted by admin on November 24th, 2016
Source: Nottingham Post
A blind woman says she hates using taxis after her guide dog was refused entry by a cabbie who ended up with a legal bill of more than £1,000.
But Mel Griffiths keeps hiring vehicles and urges other blind people to do the same – while alerting councils of any trouble. She spoke after Nottingham magistrates heard how she was with two other blind people and two guide dogs when refused a lift by Romaios Pappas, 33, although they had told his firm about them.
Mrs Griffiths, 51, said: “Some taxi drivers will pick you up and try to make the journey unpleasant. They say they don’t like dogs, their other passengers might not like it or there may be dog hairs. “Some don’t know it’s the law and these things should not go unchallenged. If people let them get away with it, then they will. This is more prevalent than people may think and should always be reported. I hate using taxis for this reason,” added Mrs Griffiths, who lives in Arnold and is a volunteer for Guide Dogs for the Blind.
She said that other cabbies had refused access to her dog and the local council did not prosecute. She thanked Gedling Borough Council for bringing the case to court. The incident happened while she was with her six-year-old Labrador guide dog Hudson, her husband Gavin, 43, an audio production engineer and a friend Corie Stanfield, 50, a London university manager who had her guide dog Yarna.
The court heard that Pappas breached the Equality Act which insists that hackney carriage drivers must carry assistance dogs. He failed to attend the hearing and was found guilty in his absence. A £660 fine, £285 prosecution costs and a £66 government surcharge were ordered from Pappas of Honeysuckle Grove, Nuthall. He was given four weeks to pay or risk a visit from bailiffs.
Hannah Cash, prosecuting, said the incident happened when he arrived on Highbury Avenue on May 29 for an ordered journey. “The driver asked whether the dogs were travelling. The passengers confirmed they were and that they were guide dogs. They asked the driver to open the boot. He said he did not take dogs. The passengers advised him that it was illegal to refuse.” They asked if he had an exemption certificate, which can be granted to drivers who are allergic to dogs. He told them he did not need one.
The three phoned Trent Cars, who had taken the booking. The firm called Pappas who was said to be “arguing” with the manager on the phone. Mrs Cash said: “At this point, the taxi simply drove away. The passengers were left to wait on the pavement until another taxi turned up. They described it as leaving them ‘very angry, very helpless, very disappointing’.”
When questioned by council staff, Pappas said he had never picked up dogs before so had to contact the company. “He said there was tension with the passengers and decided to leave and that he was scared of dogs coming into his car. He said that when the company explained the situation he offered the passengers a free journey in the future but they did not take him up on the offer.
“He said he was not told he would be carrying guide dogs so he was not prepared. He got frustrated and so refused to take the job. “Trent Cars kept telling him he must take the passengers and their assistance dogs but he could not fit them all in because his car was too small,” added Mrs Cash.
Presiding magistrate Graham Roseblade, who sat with two colleagues, said: “We take a serious view of this matter. We are satisfied Trent Cars tried to persuade Mr Pappas to take this particular passenger and other passengers at the time. “Despite their persistent attempts to persuade Mr Pappas to take them, Mr Pappas refused to do so. On that basis, we find the matter to be particularly serious.”
Peter Shearstone, manager at DG Cars, which is linked to Trent Cars, said later: “He no longer works for this company, or any of our companies. He has not worked for the company for some months.”
Gedling councillor David Ellis, political lead for public protection, applauded the JPs’ sentence on the driver. He said: “It shows the magistrates have taken a serious view of the offence.” Cllr Ellis said the authority would continue to keep a close eye on any breaches of the rule, adding: “They have no excuse. Guide dogs are better trained than other dogs – that is why they are allowed in shops.
“Refusing to allow guide dogs in taxis stops blind people from being able to get about. We take the regulations very seriously and expect drivers to live up to their responsibilities,” he added.