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Borough council secures guilty pleas for plying for hire during Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham Borough Council has successfully prosecuted five drivers for unlawfully plying for hire during Cheltenham Festival 2019.

All five drivers attended Cheltenham Magistrates Court and entered a guilty plea for the offences of plying for hire and driving without valid insurance.

The drivers had stopped their vehicle for council enforcement officers during an undercover taxi operation during the festival in March.

A further five cases are also pending prosecution, the local authority added.

The five drivers were:

  • Jamie Herbert, 19 of Cheltenham, who holds only a DVLA driving licence and is not a hackney carriage driver. Following his guilty plea Mr Herbert was ordered to pay a fine of £120, a victim surcharge of £30 and costs of £300 – totalling £450; six penalty points were also imposed by the magistrates.
  • Wiktor Michalak, 22 of Bishops Cleeve in Cheltenham, who holds only a DVLA driving licence and is not a hackney carriage driver. Mr Michalak was ordered to pay a fine of £392, a victim surcharge of £39 and costs of £350, totalling £781. Six penalty points were also imposed by the magistrates.
  • Ahmed Farooq, 39 of Gloucester, who stopped in a Skoda Octavia, a private hire vehicle licensed by Gloucester City Council. As a private hire driver Mr Farooq can only lawfully carry passengers who have booked their journey in advance through his Gloucester operator. He was ordered to pay a fine of £346, a victim surcharge of £34 and costs of £400 – totalling £780. Mr Farooq also received 6 penalty points.
  • Jonathan Thomas, 27 of Gloucester, stopped in response to two council enforcement officers. The vehicle driven by Mr Thomas was found to have been hired by a rental firm for the week. Mr Thomas holds only a DVLA driving licence and is not a hackney carriage driver. He was fined £415, victim surcharge of £41 and costs of £500. The magistrates also imposed 8 penalty points, however due to points already imposed on his DVLA licence, he was subsequently disqualified from driving for 6 months.
  • Mustaf Ali, 35 from Bristol, whose car displayed a private hire vehicle licence issued by South Gloucestershire Council. He was ordered to pay a fine of £230, a victim surcharge of £30 and costs of £500 – totalling £760. Mr Ali was also given six penalty points.

Sarah Hughes, licensing enforcement officer at Cheltenham Borough Council, said: “These prosecutions give a warning to drivers who wish to capitalise on the additional footfall to Cheltenham during Gold Cup week that we will take action should they operate unlawfully.

“Where drivers prosecuted are taxi or private hire drivers, the local authority in which they are licensed will be informed of any prosecutions and these authorities may then refer the matter to their licensing committee to review the drivers licence. Ultimately a driver found guilty of these offences may end up with a fine, points on their DVLA driving licence and their professional licence being revoked.

“The public should be made aware that if they get into a vehicle not operating lawfully, they will not be covered by insurance in the event of an accident. The council urges the public to ensure that the vehicle that they get into is properly licensed, either by pre-booking a private hire vehicle in advance through an operator or by taking a journey with a Cheltenham licensed hackney carriage vehicle.

“Our enforcement officers will continue to carry out spot checks and monitor activity during major race meets.”