TAXI DRIVER LOSES APPEAL OVER FALSE INSURANCE

A Cleckheaton taxi driver had his private hire licence revoked by Kirklees Council for having false insurance certificates.

Asif Mahmood of Mount Street, Cleckheaton, appeared before Batley and Dewsbury Magistrates on Wednesday to appeal against the council's decision, claiming he did not realise the documents were fake.

Geoff Bell, representing Kirklees, told the court that when a driver applied for a licence the council had to be satisfied he or she was a fit and proper person to drive a taxi.

"The council has to place a lot of trust in drivers so they have to make sure they are trustworthy and honest," he said.

"When they are given a badge one of the most important things is insurance. The court looks badly on ordinary drivers who do not have insurance, but for taxi drivers in public vehicles it is even more important."

Mr Bell said it was not possible for the council to check and verify every document and they had to take them as genuine, in good faith.

The investigation started after a member of staff in the licensing office noticed two different insurance certificates had the same serial number.

The insurance company confirmed that the certificates were forgeries so staff checked through other documents and found that more than 20 drivers in Kirklees had false documents.

Mr Bell said Mahmood had produced three different fake documents – one full insurance certifica te from Norwich Union and two cover notes from Corinthian.

Geoff Cowling, of Kirklees Taxi Licensing, told the court the certificates were of poor quality and something about them did not ring true.

When he contacted Norwich Union and Corinthian the companies confirmed that the certificates were fake and faxed copies of real certificates so staff could make a comparison.

More...Former Heckmondwike Labour councillor Peter Sykes, who was then chairman of the licensing committee, said he believed the committee was correct to revoke Mahmood's licence.

Kris Reed, representing Mahmood, said he had been caught up in a scam.

She said before starting a job as a taxi driver Mahmood, who is married with two children, worked as a chef. He started driving taxis as a favour to his uncle, who owned the firm.

He first used his uncle's insurance, but when he was approached by a man who asked if he wanted to buy insurance he decided to take out his own policy.

Mahmood said the policy cost him 1,650. He paid the man a deposit of 150 and he was insured with a cover note, and the full policy arrived by post six or seven weeks later. He then paid the rest in cash instalments.

Miss Reed said Mahmood had bought the policy in good faith and had no reason to believe it was not genuine. He did not know anything was wrong until Mr Cowling turned up at his house to inform him.

Mahmood said he had not worked for two months while he was waiting for the appeal and was very distressed by the whole matter.

"I was shocked when Mr Cowling told me. I had paid 8,000 for a new car and I would not drive it without insurance," he said.

"Having insurance is the most important thing a taxi driver should have because you are carrying different people all the time plus your own family as well."

Mahmood said he bought the insurance from the man and did not check his credentials or ring the insurance companies to check the authenticity of the certificates because he had seemed like a genuine person.

He said he had no receipts or documents showing what he had paid other than the insurance certificates and cover notes.

He added: "I would not buy dodgy insurance. This is my livelihood. It is a job I have enjoyed doing and I have got a lot of respect from it."

Magistrates refused his appeal and upheld the council's decision. They ordered him to pay 100 costs to the council.