A court has turned down an appeal by a Hove cabbie after his taxi driving licence was revoked by Brighton and Hove City Council.
Mohammed Chebbi, 52, of Egmont Road, Hove, lost his hackney carriage licence – the licence to drive a taxi – in September after his ex-wife claimed that he was violent.
Mr Chebbi’s case was heard at Brighton Magistrates’ Court this afternoon (Tuesday 7 March) with the council saying that he was not a fit and proper person to drive a taxi.
Mike Tyler, for the council, said that Mr Chebbi was expected to drive vulnerable people, including children, but the council was concerned that he might not provide a safe and secure environment.
Mr Tyler said: “He failed to exercise self-control and exhibited behaviours and attitudes that gave considerable cause for concern.
“He assaulted his wife, which he disputes, (and) he holds attitudes and values that are deeply worrying.”
Mr Tyler told the magistrates that the purpose of the taxi licensing regime was to protect the public, not a driver’s trade.
Mr Tyler also said that the council’s Hackney Carriage Office had received complaints in the past, including that he blocked a road then lost his temper when asked to move. Mr Chebbi also disputed this.
While the law did not say what made someone a fit and proper person, Mr Tyler cited a commonly accepted test: “Would you allow your son or daughter, spouse or partner, mother or father, grandson or grand-daughter or other person you cared about to get into this vehicle with this person alone?
“To give Mr Chebbi his licence back could put others at risk.”
Mr Chebbi said: “I’ve been out of work for six months. I’ve got bills … I am here, pleading for my job.”
He said that the claims against him came from his ex-wife Aida Nfissi, 35, of Mile Oak Road, Portslade, and should not be taken on trust as evidence.
He had held his licence for more than 22 years – since October 1994 – and had a good record and the support of his bosses.
He said: “No one has witnessed me being violent to my ex-wife.”
He said that he had no criminal convictions – and the court accepted this.
In evidence a senior council officer, Jo Player, told the court that since the Rotherham child sexual exploitation case, local authorities had become more aware of potential risks.
She said: “We will take into account things such as domestic violence as one of the factors we will look at when we consider whether the public are being put at risk.
“We take all aspects of safeguarding seriously. If there have been allegations that domestic violence has been going on, there is a concern that they don’t have control of their temper and if confronted by a passenger who is argumentative might not act in a controlled way.”
She also said that the council had been made aware of a claim that a child had been seen not wearing a seatbelt in Mr Chebbi’s car.
Jo Player told the court: “I believe it shows that he is not taking child safety seriously.”
In response to her evidence, Mr Chebbi told the court: “If she is concerned that my mood might change, we’ve got CCTV cameras in the taxi. We’d be foolish to misbehave.”
Mr Chebbi, who is originally from Tunisia, said: “I’ve been living in this country for 28 years and I’ve never been convicted or charged with anything.
“I’ve had British nationality since 1993 and I’ve been a taxi driver for 23 years since October 1994.
“When you renew your licence every three years you have to have a (criminal records check) and it shows I am clean. In the eye of the law I am a clean person until proven otherwise.
“I’ve been working for the company for 22 years and I have picked up vulnerable old people, vulnerable children, I have taken home people who are drunk or drugged at 3am. I care for them. I have never been violent.
“If they thought I was unfit, they should have revoked my licence years and years ago.
“All the reports are biased against me. They are not balanced. All this came from my ex-wife. She is the source of all the information.
“If they think those allegations are serious, how come I haven’t been charged and convicted.
“In this country you are innocent until proven guilty. You have to provide complete evidence, not allegations.
“I love my job and I pay my dues. Some people can discriminate. Some people can be racist.
“I’ve been abused in my taxi. I’ve been called names, particularly after 9/11 and the (Iraq) war.”
Mr Tyler criticised Mr Chebbi’s attitude, saying: “You say, it’s all your wife’s fault. She made it up. It’s just revenge.”
He told the court: “The purpose of the regime is to protect the public from any threat the driver may pose.
“You should put aside his personal circumstances and bear in mind the purpose of the regime which is to protect the public.”
The court upheld the revocation and ordered Mr Chebbi to pay £500 towards the council’s costs.
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