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Private hire operator and director ordered to pay £25k+ over lack of licence

A private hire operator and its director have been ordered to pay more than £25,000 in fines and costs after a long-running legal battle.

Call a Cab Ltd (now Easy Cabs) operated in Aylesbury, but its vehicles and drivers were licensed by Rutland County Council.

In 2012 Aylesbury Vale District Council launched a prosecution against the company for operating without a licence from the council and Ahtiq Raja, its director, for aiding and abetting the commission of the offences.

However, a district judge accepted the defendants’ argument that Aylesbury Vale had failed to carry out the correct procedures in 1989 when the authority sought to adopt the private hire controls in Part 2 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

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The judge ruled that a failure to notify 12 out of 112 parish councils in the district meant that the Act had never been validly adopted.

A two-judge Divisional Court upheld Aylesbury Vale’s appeal in November 2013.

Mr Justice Ouseley concluded that the defendants had suffered no prejudice because the 1976 Act did not require notification to them, but to the parish councils.

The judge also said the district judge should have considered the degree to which there had been ‘substantial compliance’ with the procedural requirement.

The case was sent back to the Magistrates’ Court for reconsideration.

At a hearing at Oxford Magistrates' Court, Call a Cab was convicted of five offences of operating a private hire vehicle without a licence, and Raja of aiding and abetting the commission of the offences.

District Judge Tim Pattinson concluded that, following additional evidence obtained by Aylesbury Vale, the appropriate notifications were made and that the resolution passed adopting Part 2 in 1989 was valid.

Rejecting a defence that Call a Cab did not require a licence because it was acting as an intermediary, the judge imposed a total fine of £2,500 on each defendant.

The defendants were also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £20,000 in total and a victim surcharge of £50.

Cllr Judy Brandis, chairman of Aylesbury Vale’s licensing committee, said: “This has been a protracted and costly prosecution but sends the strongest possible message that Aylesbury Vale District Council will challenge unlawful practices which undermine public safety, essential regulatory standards and fair competition. This was an important case and we are delighted with the outcome.”

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