Ms C gave her evidence sitting, with her golden labrador guide dog, Jess, beside her. She told the court that she had been partially sighted since birth. She said when she had got off the train at Bishops Stortford station she had been emotional because it had been her last day at her Harlow-based job. It was a cold and snowy night in early January and she had approached the first taxi in the rank and given the driver the address she wanted to go to. She said she sometimes used a white cane but on this occasion had Jess with her. “The driver said Sorry no dogs – I said No, she is a guide dog – the driver said again Sorry no dogs – I said It’s illegal and you’re breaking the law. I couldn’t be bothered to argue my case and went back to the station.”
An independent prosecution witness told the court that soon after the incident she had made a statement to East Herts Council Taxi Licensing Authority in which she had stated she had seen Ms C approach the front taxi, and then immediately turn away and swiftly head back towards the station.
Taxi driver Mr U then gave evidence to the court. He said he had seen a dog and, not realising it was a guide dog, refused to carry it. He said the owner had said “Don’t you realise it’s a guide dog – you’re going to pay for this!” and ‘stormed off’. Before he had a chance to work out what was happening, the next taxi queue passenger had jumped in, eager to be driven home.
The Bishops Stortford station taxi marshall told the court he had heard a car door slam and a lady go past him “with the hump”.
Craig Crosbie summed up his client’s case to the court “this blind lady was cold and hungry. She had wet feet – to be refused was the understandable final straw. But buried at the heart of his unfortunate case lies a mistake – Mr U did not know the dog was a guide dog.”
After retiring for 20 minutes the three magistrates returned to declare Mr U not guilty of refusing to carry an assistance dog – and directed costs are awarded against East Herts Council Taxi Licensing Authority.