Ipswich: Taxi drivers seek council support after “worst miscarriage of justice”

Taxi driver Metin Akin. He refused to take a blind couple because of their guide dogs and was taken

Taxi driver Metin Akin. He refused to take a blind couple because of their guide dogs and was taken to court by Ipswich Borough Council. - Credit: Contributed

Taxi drivers and cabbies are calling for more support from councillors after a driver successfully appealed his three-month licence suspension.

Metin Akin, from Witnesham, was handed the suspension on his private hire drivers licence after appearing before Ipswich Borough Council’s Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Enforcement Sub-Committee in March.

It came after he pleaded guilty at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court in February to refusing to transport blind couple Martin Roberts and Clare Burman and their two guide dog labradors in Ipswich last July.

He was ordered to pay £1,413 in fines and court fees.

Akin successfully appealed Ipswich Borough Council’s three-month suspension on Friday, with magistrates agreeing to reduce the suspension to a month.

Eric Pearl, from Ipswich Taxi Drivers Association, said although Akin admitted his mistake, the three-month suspension imposed was unfair.

He said: “I have represented many drivers in Ipswich at council enforcement meetings and this is the worst miscarriage of justice I have seen attempted by the council.

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“Mr Akin has agreed all the way through that he made a mistake and at the end of the day he pleaded guilty and has taken it on the chin.

“In court he showed verbal remorse for what he did.”

Mr Pearl added: “Councillors need to support Ipswich cabbies more as nearly one third of the town’s drivers have already taken or are now on disability awareness courses on a voluntary basis.

“All the town’s drivers are proud of their working relationship with the local disabled community and we are working hard to encourage new drivers coming into the trade to join us on the disability awareness course.”

Akin refused to drive Mr Roberts and Ms Burman and their dogs to their home in Bridgewater Road because he was concerned about the leather seats in his Volkswagen Passat after taking the booking from Ipswich Cabs 289 Ltd.

Taxi drivers can only refuse if they have an exemption certificate on medical grounds.

An Ipswich Borough Council spokesman said: “We are pleased that the courts have rejected Metin Akin’s assertion that we acted unlawfully and that a suspension of his licence has been upheld.

“We hope Mr Akin understands why the council took action.

“We regard refusal to transport a disabled person with their guide dog, in these circumstances, as completely unacceptable.”