Driver refused couple because of allergy

A Norfolk blind couple and their guide dogs were refused a lift in a taxi because it was claimed the driver said he was allergic to the animals and it was against his religion to have them in his vehicle.

A Norfolk blind couple and their guide dogs were refused a lift in a taxi because it was claimed the driver said he was allergic to the animals and it was against his religion to have them in his vehicle.

Paul and Kerry Monaghan, of North Walsham, were left abandoned on the pavement outside Cambridge Railway Station after taxi driver Sallahaddin Abdullah told them "Sorry, I sneeze, my religion" and picked up another passenger instead.

Mr Monaghan and his wife, who is also deaf, had tried to get into Abdullah's taxi on August 15 last year so they could go to an appointment at Addenbrooke's Hospital.

On Wednesday magistrates fined Abdullah £200 and ordered him to pay £1,000 costs after he was found guilty of refusing or neglecting

to drive the couple without a reasonable excuse under the Police Clauses Act of 1847.

Abdullah, a self employed taxi driver for the last three years, had denied that his comment meant he was unable to take the dogs in his taxi because it was contrary to his religion and he was allergic to them.

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Appearing at Cambridge magistrates' court with his guide dog Baker, Mr Monaghan said he was totally convinced he had heard Abdullah say he could not give the couple a lift because of his religious convictions and sensitivity to being close to dogs.

Mr Monaghan said: "It is only my eyesight I have a problem with, not my ears."

The next taxi in the queue picked up the Monaghans and its driver made a note of Abdullah's number so a complaint could be made.

Abdullah, 40, of Ditchburn Close, Cambridge, denied the offence and told the court that the Monaghans were not the first in the queue and he would not leave them stranded because he would be spotted by CCTV cameras and other taxi drivers.

Mr Monaghan declined to make a comment after the hearing but the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association praised the magistrates' conviction of Abdullah.

Association spokesman Chris Dyson said: "We hope this makes the strong point that taxi drivers cannot refuse access to people with guide dogs on medical or religious grounds."

A prosecution against Abdullah under disability discrimination law failed because regulations only apply to pre-booked taxis.

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