Speeding offences put brakes on Newport taxi driver's career

Two “minor” speeding offences have cost a Newport man his taxi licence.

Gary Mason’s application for a private hire driving licence was turned down in August, with his two convictions for driving 35mph in 30mph areas cited by council officers the reason.

The 56-year-old appealed that decision, but this week Telford Magistrates Court upheld it.

Suzanne Fisher, the principal licensing officer for Telford and Wrekin Council, told the hearing: “Mr Mason’s application was passed to me by a member of my team for me to make a determination in light of his convictions.”

Mr Mason, of Gravelly Drive, Newport, has five offences on his record. Three date from the 1980s, and are for ABH, a public order offence, and leaving a restaurant without paying.

More recently, he picked up two convictions for speeding, in 2016 and 2017, while working as a driver for domiciliary care companies, ferrying carers between clients’ homes.

Mrs Fisher said she disregarded the older offences, accepting Mr Mason’s view that they were the actions of an “angry young man”, but focussed on the more recent driving charges when deciding if Mr Mason was a “fit and proper person” to hold a taxi licence.

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“It was those two speeding offences, and Mr Mason’s representations when I asked about them, that I made my decision on,” Mrs Fisher said.

“I was not satisfied he really understood how public safety is put at risk by speeding.”

She added that, in her decision letter, she more time needed to elapse so Mr Mason could show the two convictions genuinely were isolated.

The court heard that, under council rules, a serious motoring offence can bar someone from getting a taxi licence by itself, but more minor offences – like narrowly speeding – had to be part of a “pattern of behaviour” to disqualify someone.

Mr Mason’s solicitor, Shakeel Ahmed, asked the magistrates to see the convictions in a wider context. His client worked as a courier for 14 years, driving 70,000 miles a year, and had a driving licence for 36 years, but the six penalty points arising from his speeding convictions were the only ones he had ever had.

Mr Mason said that, at the time of his first speeding offence, he was under pressure from his employers to ferry carers from place to place on time.

“It was a constant flow of driving,” he said. “The company expected me to drive like a maniac.”

He attributed the second speeding offence, which took place near Much Wenlock after he had dropped off some carers at their homes, to a momentary “slight lack of concentration”, and added that, as a taxi driver, he would be less likely to speed because he could choose his own jobs and travel at his own speed.

After about 20 minutes of deliberation, presiding magistrate David Styles told rejected Mr Mason’s appeal and upheld Mrs Fisher’s original decision.

Report by Alex Moore, Local Democracy Reporter

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