A BLIND woman has told of the moment a taxi driver drove off and left her when he saw she had a guide dog.

Emma Gilfoyle, 41, from Willington, County Durham, was with her golden Labrador-retriever cross when she went for a cab on North Road in Durham, at around 5pm on December 4, last year.

But when the driver, Muhammed Imran Ashraf, saw two-year-old Magic he left the rank.

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Miss Gilfoyle, who had been playing blind cricket in Chester-le-Street and had missed her connecting bus to take her home, said: “I walked down North Road to the taxi rank using Magic to guide me. I approached the drivers’ side window of the first car in the rank and asked the driver if he was available and the driver replied ‘yes’.

“I said ‘come on Magic, let’s get in the car’. I started to walk round the car to the rear to get in the front passenger seat. Magic usually gets in with me and sits in the footwell. As I did that the driver drove away.

“I was confused because it had never happened before. I realised I better get off the road to make myself safe. That is when another driver got out and helped me.”

Ashraf, 44, of Chestnut Avenue, in Newcastle, was due to appear for a trial at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court on Monday morning.

The case against him, for failing to comply with a section 168 duty in relation to an assistance dog for a disabled person, went ahead in his absence when he failed to show.

Catherine Hazell, who prosecuted the case on behalf of Durham County Council, said: “The defendant faces one count of being a driver of a taxi which had been hired by a disabled person who was accompanied by an assistance dog of and a failing to carry the assistance dog and disable person.

“The driver must carry the disabled person’s dog and allow it to remain with that person and not make any additional charge for doing so. The driver commits an offence by failing to comply with this duty.”

Mrs Hazell told the court Ashraf had previously said he could not recall the incident.

He was not represented at the hearing.

The taxi driver behind Ashraf, who took Miss Gilfoyle home, and urged her report the incident to the council, also gave evidence.

He said: “I thought it was awful to leave the lady stranded. We are supposed to help the public, not leave them.”

Magistrates found the case proved and decided Ashraf would be issued with a £440 fine and ordered to pay costs of £711.

The court was told it is understood Ashraf has left the country.

After the hearing, Miss Gilfoyle said: “I am glad it has been sorted out. Magic means everything to me and means I have got more independence.

“She makes sure I do not bump into things and she even keeps me from sitting of people’s knees on the bus. She keeps me safe.”

I tried to do that once and Magic pulled me away.”