A MIDDLESBROUGH taxi driver has been hit with a hefty court fine for picking up a fare illegally.

Najabat Ramzan, of Harrogate Crescent, Middlesbrough pleaded guilty last month to plying for hire and driving without insurance.

Teesside Magistrates court heard how licensing officers approached the 48-year-old's private hire vehicle, on Linthorpe Road, during an operation in January.

When an officer asked to be taken to the Sporting Lodge, Ramzan agreed to do so.

On arriving at the destination, Ramzan confirmed the fare would be £7.50 and the officers paid and left the vehicle.

When interviewed subsequently the driver confirmed that the journey wasn't pre-booked through a licensed private hire operator, thereby invalidating his motor insurance.

Appearing before magistrates on July 23, Ramzan was fined £460 and ordered to pay costs of £185 and a £46 victim surcharge.

He was also given six penalty points on his licence, bringing his total to 13, but at a subsequent hardship hearing on Tuesday, August 6, Magistrates agreed not to disqualify him.

Councillor Mieka Smiles, Middlesbrough Council's Executive Member for Culture and Communities, said: "It is essential that all operators, vehicles and drivers are properly licensed and operate within the law.

"Those regulations are there to ensure the safety and welfare of the taxi travelling public.

"I hope operations like this will act as a strong deterrent to others who might be tempted to put passengers and other road users at risk by flouting the law."