A Worthing taxi driver has lost his licence after ‘inappropriate’ behaviour with a female passenger.
Mohamed Alkhayat was at Worthing Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, February 5, to appeal against his private hire driver’s licence being revoked on August 7 by Worthing Borough Council.
Chairman of the bench of magistrates William Gibbons dismissed the appeal. He said: “We feel both the standard of driving and behaviour of Mr Alkhayat fell below the accepted standards of a licensed driver.”
The court heard how Mr Alkhayat touched the young woman’s leg during the journey. Mr Gibbons said: “He claimed her leg was close to the gearbox. This isn’t accepted by the bench.”
He was seen to kiss her hand without permission, Mr Gibbons said, and tried to exchange phone numbers with her, which the chairman found ‘totally inappropriate’.
During another journey from Gatwick Airport to Worthing, CCTV footage showed Mr Alkhayat driving while using his mobile phone and without a seatbelt before picking up his passenger. His highest recorded speed was 85mph, and he was seen driving with one hand on the wheel, the court heard.
In an interview with Worthing Borough Council on August 6, Mr Alkhayat said he ‘felt more comfortable’ with one hand on the wheel and admitted he was ‘overfriendly’ with the female passenger, Mr Gibbons said. He said ‘other incidents had been reported to Arrow Taxis that were not investigated further’.
In a statement given after the decision, Arrow Taxis released a statement about the incident and its safety policies.
Here it is in full:
“Firstly, we would like to thank the individuals who contacted us regarding these incidents and would like to reiterate our support and consideration.
“We were made aware of two incidents in relation to a Worthing licensed private Hire driver.
“The individual in this instance has never been employed by Arrow Taxi Group although did sub-contract taxi bookings as a self-employed Worthing licensed driver.
“Upon being informed of these incidents we followed our routine procedures immediately and as a result the driver was suspended from fulfilling any further booking through our booking agency.
“Internal reports were produced based on our recorded date (vehicle GPS, driver activity etc.) and statements were obtained from all individuals involved. We advised all parties to report the incident to Worthing Taxi Licensing and the local police station so that those with authority and investigative powers could proceed as a matter of public safety.
“We contacted Worthing Licensing authorities ourselves and subsequently provided all recorded evidence and incident reports with statements.
“The driver in this instance has not received sub-contracted work from Arrow since and we are relieved that an appropriate conclusion has been reached.
“Arrow as with all operators nationally work on the faith that all drivers with a valid annually reviewed taxi license have been deemed fit and proper. Taxi Licensing are a local governing body and the only authority who can issue or revoke licenses, Arrow have no connection or influence in this process.
“Mandatory to being licensed drivers must complete; an enhanced DBS process, medical report, DVLA check and pass local taxi knowledge test, practical taxi driving test and several further safeguarding focused courses.
“Taxi licensing in Worthing is amongst the most stringent in the country, ensuring licensed vehicles and drivers are of high standards. Worthing is one of the first regions to implement CCTV in licensed vehicles, with both Worthing Taxi licensing and Arrow working tirelessly towards this aim for several years previously.
“In addition to taxi licensing, Arrow work endlessly beyond to ensure the safety of drivers and the public in a vastly changing technology-driven world. For example, last year Arrow introduced a ‘no number’ policy, drivers and customers are connected without displaying contact numbers, a simple but brilliant safety feature.
“Arrow also works with several key local authorities and public services, which entails regular and thorough audits. Recently we scored 99% satisfaction when visited by a medical patient transport partner and additionally awarded ‘outstanding’ with respect to the safeguarding of young and vulnerable individuals by independent reviewers.
“A number of licensed taxi drivers who sub-contract from Arrow have additionally been interviewed and issued annual badges by local county councils with further training and courses in first aid, disability awareness, exploitation awareness and safeguarding.
“These drivers are exclusively permitted to undertake work that may require such training, as identified through independent risk assessments. Additionally, we provide trained ‘transport officers’ who have completed the same process as drivers, they accompany and assist drivers throughout journeys when required.
“Before a driver can sub-contract work from Arrow, we conduct an initial interview, complete a thorough induction and practical road/safety examination.
“All official driver and vehicle documentation is reviewed, retained and flagged up before annual expiry when a licensed driver is sub-contracting work from us.
“Our automated system notifies drivers and Arrow of any documentation that requires renewal and will prevent anyone sub-contracting work beyond expiry.
“A thorough ‘incident’ reporting system is enforced for all bookings and sub-contracted work associated with Arrow Taxi. We report all incidents through appropriate channels routinely liaising with Taxi Licensing authorities and the police when required.
“Although Arrow cannot revoke a driver’s taxi license or stop them sub-contracting work elsewhere, we can stop a driver receiving work from Arrow directly. However, in any incident, we must be considerate to all parties involved and often have to make difficult decisions with very limited and unverifiable evidence.
“If a driver is under any suspicion, until taxi Licensing authorities investigate and decide to uphold or revoke a licence we are uninformed entirely of any potential criminality or outcome.
“As a result we take a ‘safety first’ approach and in such situations a driver would be prevented from sub-contracting work from Arrow until an official outcome is achieved.
“It is a common understanding amongst drivers that the public put their faith in the taxi industry as a whole and if a driver is not at fault any investigative outcomes will evidence their innocence with the trades reputation upheld in the meantime.
“We would like to reassure the community that as a local family run business we take your safety to heart.
“We will always work to the best of our ability and encourage the public and drivers to report
all incidents to us confidentially. You can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.”