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Taxi driver finder for illegally plying trade; Cabbie picked up pair outside licensed area.

Byline: LINDA RICHARDS

A TAXI driver has been convicted of illegally plying for trade in a landmark case.

Abdul Ghaffar picked up two council staff posing as customers who flagged him down in Gateshead.

He took them to a local hotel but when he tried to charge them for the journey, they revealed who they were and told him he was breaking the law by picking up fares outside of his licensed area.

Ghaffar, 23, of Planetree Avenue, Fenham, Newcastle, was due to appear before Gateshead magistrates this week accused of illegally plying for hire and without the proper insurance.

When he failed to turn up he was found guilty in his absence and fined pounds 525 with pounds 289 costs. His licence was also endorsed with eight penalty points.

Ghaffar was issued his licence by the former Berwick Borough Council which was taken to court by Newcastle City Council over its controversial licence policy.

Drivers from across the UK travelled to Berwick to get their badges, with the result that more than 400 taxi drivers with plates issued in the Borders town were working for private hire firms in Newcastle and North Tyneside.

That sparked a protest from Tyneside-based taxi drivers who claimed their livelihoods were being threatened.

At the court case that followed, a High Court judge ruled that Berwick Council had to consider where taxis were likely to work before issuing a licence.

Gateshead Council prosecutor Roddy Currie said Ghaffar was caught in a routine undercover operation staged by Gateshead Council's licensing team in September 2010.

He is the latest taxi driver to be prosecuted by Gateshead Council for illegally plying for trade in the area.

Anneliese Hutchinson, head of the council's development and public protection, said: "This is an important prosecution as Berwick hackney carriages have caused significant problems for other councils in the North East in recent years."

In response to the judgment, Northumberland County Council - which has responsibility for taxi licensing across the county - is bringing in a new system to ensure that in future licences are only granted to those who intend to use them predominantly within the county.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 17, 2011
Words:356
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