A TAXI firm boss was ordered to pay almost £2,500 for letting someone drive one of his private hire vehicles without the appropriate licence.

Paul Smith, operator of Weardale Private Hire, of Lane Hill, Ireshopeburn, was charged with permitting Kevin Maddox to drive the vehicle without a private hire drivers’ licence.

Smith was also charged with permitting him to use the vehicle without the appropriate insurance and ordered to pay a total of £2,484.

Maddox, also of Lane Hill, Ireshopeburn, was charged with acting as the driver of a private hire vehicle without a current private hire drivers’ licence and subsequently ordered to pay a total of £660 by Peterlee Magistrates’ Court.

The action followed an operation by Durham County Council’s integrated transport and licensing teams at Evergreen School, in Bishop Auckland, last June, in which officers checked licensed vehicles and their drivers.

Maddox, who was driving a private hire vehicle, initially claimed he had forgotten his drivers’ badge but checks revealed he only held a licence to drive hackney carriages.

When interviewed under caution, the 58-year-old confirmed he did not hold the appropriate licence and that he had started working for Paul Smith in September 2017, when he provided a copy of his hackney carriage drivers’ licence. Maddox also stated he had been asked by Smith to carry out the home to school contract to cover for a driver who was on holiday.

Smith, who pleaded not guilty, said that when Maddox’s employment began he took copies of his DVLA and hackney carriage licences, however he admitted not doing all the appropriate checks due to lack of time and that he gave permission for Maddox to carry out the home to school contract.

In mitigation, the 56-year-old said he had a clean record for more than 23 years and takes pride in his job, it was a genuine misunderstanding and that he never intended to operate with no insurance. Maddox also stated he had a clean driving licence for more 36 years and it was his only form of employment.

Owen Cleugh, the county council's consumer protection manager, said: “Taxi private hire licensing is in place for the protection of the public as it ensures that all licensed drivers and private hire operators are fit and proper to hold a licence. It is important for drivers to hold the correct licence to carry out specific types of journeys as it could be the case, as in this instance, that they do not have the appropriate insurance cover which poses an additional risk to road users and passengers.”

Smith was fined a total of £1,381, ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £103, £1,000 in costs and his driving licence was endorsed with six penalty points. Maddox was fined £130, ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge and a contribution of £500 to the costs.

For more information about licensing in County Durham, including how to apply for a taxi licence, visit www.durham.gov.uk/licensing