Fine for Essex cabbies who turned down blind man and his dog

Philip Lee

Philip Lee - Credit: Lucy taylor

Two taxi drivers who refused to take a blind passenger because of his guide dog have been fined.

Braintree District Council prosecuted the drivers under the Equalities Act after Philip Lee asked the cabbies to take him and his guide dog Nan to Braintree College from Manor Street in February.

Saleh Attia, of Nottage Crescent, and Ramesh Krishnan, of Coggeshall Road, both Braintree, both turned down the fare forcing Mr Lee to be taken by a third taxi driver.

Attia and Krishnan were both fined £150, ordered to pay compensation of £50 and a £20 victim surcharge by magistrates in Chelmsford on Thursday after admitting breaching anti-discrimination laws.

Attia was also ordered to pay legal costs to the council of £706, while Krishnan had to pay £698.

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Mr Lee welcomed the prosecution, saying he hoped it would send a message to other taxi drivers.

He said: “About 40% of guide dog owners are refused taxis across the country so I hope my case prevents others from going through the same ordeal.

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“I’ve had guide dog Nan for the last five years and she has given me the confidence to go out on my own.”

It is believed to be the first case of its kind in Essex.

Wendy Schmitt, cabinet member for environment and place at Braintree District Council, stressed that the vast majority of taxi drivers in Braintree are helpful and responsible and this is the first time Braintree District Council has had to take such action.

She said: “It’s simply not acceptable for anyone to be refused services because of a disability.

“Guide dogs help people travel independently so we hope by prosecuting in this case we are giving out a strong message that taxis must carry out their legal and moral obligations.”

Sue Forster, community engagement officer at The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, said: “When someone who is blind or partially sighted needs to travel to areas unknown, taxis become the preferred choice of public transport as it is often difficult to negotiate the environment from, for example, a bus stop to a building or a street address that may be several blocks away.

“When something like this occurs it can have a significantly negative impact on the guide dog owner’s confidence to get out and about.”

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