A TAXI driver who asked for £15 for a ten minute journey has been fined for overcharging.

Taxi driver Stephen Raymond Williams pleaded guilty at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court.

Officers from Durham County Council had pre-booked a taxi for a 10 minute journey from Whorlton to Greta Bridge, in Teesdale, during a test purchases exercise in November.

They received a text message telling them the fare would be £15. When Williams arrived, he did not activate his meter and subsequently charged them the £15.

According to the council’s tariff of charges, the journey should have cost between £5.80 and £7.70.

During an interview, Williams said that all journeys were charged in this manner and that he hadn’t realised he should be setting his meter for every job.

In a letter to the court, Williams said that the fare had been agreed in advance and that had he been a private hire driver, he would not have been committing an offence.

Williams, 46, of South Cleatham, Winston, in Teesdale, was given a conditional discharge as a result of his early guilty plea but was ordered to pay £320 in costs and a £20 victim surcharge.

Owen Cleugh, Durham County Council’s consumer protection manager, said: “The aim of taxi licensing is to protect the public.

"It is important that people know they can rely on taxis working in our county and we will do all we can to ensure this is the case.”