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Court clears taxi driver

PUBLISHED: 08:53 26 November 2008 | UPDATED: 12:22 03 July 2010

A TAXI driver spoke of his relief last night after being cleared of refusing to give a lift to a partially blind woman and her guide dog.

Stuart Bird was found not guilty yesterday of failing to give a lift to Carmen Stokes and her dog Eddy in Gorleston High Street on the sunny afternoon of July 30.

A TAXI driver spoke of his relief last night after being cleared of refusing to give a lift to a partially blind woman and her guide dog.

Stuart Bird was found not guilty yesterday of failing to give a lift to Carmen Stokes and her dog Eddy in Gorleston High Street on the sunny afternoon of July 30.

Because of the allegation Mr Bird said he had lost thousands of pounds in business and his name had been tarnished in the local community. And the 47-year-old claimed in court there had been a wide ranging conspiracy against him to get him convicted.

It was alleged that Mr Bird had told his would-be passenger that he did not want take the dog in his taxi - a contravention of the Disability and Discrimination Act.

Mr Bird was also prosecuted by Yarmouth Borough Council under the Town Police Clauses act of 1847 for refusing to take a passenger without a reasonable excuse.

After a three hour trial Yarmouth magistrates decided Mr Bird, of New College Close, Gorleston, was not guilty on both counts and awarded him £10 travel costs.

After the hearing Mr Bird, a self employed taxi driver of 11 years, said: “It is wonderful and a huge relief to be totally vindicated.”

The court heard Mrs Stokes, from Lowestoft and her dog had gone up to Mr Bird at the front of the Feather Plain taxi rank and asked to be taken to nearby Bells Road.

She claimed that Mr Bird told her: “I don't have dogs in my car.” After refusing her, Mrs Stokes said that Mr Bird “did not say anything. He just sat there. He weren't bothered at all.” A distressed Mrs Stokes then got in the taxi behind Mr Bird's.

Mr Bird, who defended himself, said he had never refused the £3 fare to Mrs Stokes at all.

He told magistrates she had pretended to act as if she was refused as part of an elaborate charade in a 'web of complicity' linked with the borough council and the other taxi driver, Andrew Bull.

Mr Bird said Mrs Stokes, who he knew from 19 years ago, gave a “very choreographed performance” worthy of the “movies”.

He also said the conspiracy involved a lack of CCTV footage which could have been presented in evidence in his favour and Mrs Stokes, Mr Bull and council investigators may have collaborated together to provide statements.

Chris Skinner, prosecuting, alleged Mr Bird had made up the conspiracy to prevent him getting a possible ban from driving taxis in the future. It was also claimed that Mr Bird did not want any dogs in his car as it would take half an hour to clean up afterwards.

Mr Bird replied to the accusation: “It is completely inconceivable that I would have refused to take a fare with a guide dog.”

Magistrates ruled that Mr Bird was not guilty as there were no collaborating witnesses at the taxi rank to confirm the allegations.

Outside the court Mr Bird said he had lost at least a four figure sum in earnings and his reputation had been tarnished because of the five month long legal proceedings.


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