Taxi driver who refused to take guide dog is fined

media captionA taxi firm is criticised for refusing to pick up a man with his guide dog

A taxi driver who refused to carry a guide dog because he claimed it was against his religion has been fined for breaching equality laws.

Abandi Kassim turned away Charles Bloch, 22, and his dog in Leicester in July 2016.

The driver apologised outside Leicester Magistrates' Court and claimed he was "confused" at the time.

Mr Bloch said he hoped the fine would send a message to others that disability laws must be respected.

He had booked the minicab for himself and his assistance dog, Carlo, and his girlfriend filmed Kassim saying he would not take them with the dog because of his religion.

Mr Bloch, who is registered blind, explained the law but Kassim drove away.

Kassim, 44, of Fountains Avenue, Leicester, pleaded guilty to refusing to convey a guide dog, an offence under the Equality Act 2010, and was fined £340 plus £200 costs and a £50 victim surcharge.

Magistrates told him taxi drivers had a duty to know the law.

image copyrightDe Montfort University
image captionCharles Bloch said many friends were worried about the reaction to their assistance dogs

Kassim said: "I was confused because I was scared of the dog and at the time I did not know the difference between the guide dog and the normal dog.

"It was a mistake, it was a lack of training, I think there should be a course about dogs. I know about them now and would take them now."

Mr Bloch said: "I know a lot of people with assistance dogs worry about this happening so hopefully this shows them the law is on their side.

"It also shows that if they have a problem, there is something they can do about it."

This is the second time Mr Bloch has taken action against a taxi firm, with him bringing a similar case in November.

ADT Taxis, which employed Mr Kassim, said the driver had been dismissed as soon as they became aware of the incident.

Guide dogs and the law

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal for a private hire vehicle to refuse to take a disabled person because they have an assistance dog, nor can they charge more.

Anyone found guilty of an offence under the act is liable to a fine.

Assistance dogs are defined as dogs trained to guide someone who is blind, deaf, epileptic or suffers a condition which affects mobility.

Drivers can apply to a licensing authority for exemption from carrying assistance dogs, but only on medical grounds.

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