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Crown court judge throws out taxi driver licence appeal

A TAXI driver branded "awkward and vindictive" by a judge has lost his bid to have his licence reinstated after it was revoked by Rugby Borough Council.

Brian McKinstry verbally abused a motorist, was rude to passengers and threatened a fellow taxi driver.

And a council officer travelling in his cab was reduced to tears after McKinstry took his hands off the steering wheel and shouted angrily after nearly colliding with a van at a roundabout.

The 45-year-old, of Regent Place, had his dual Hackney Carriage and private hire vehicle licence revoked by the council's licensing and safety committee in November 2015 after the council received a string of complaints from members of the public and fellow taxi drivers.

The committee revoked the licence after concluding McKinstry was not a 'fit and proper' person to drive a taxi - a decision which was upheld by magistrates on appeal in June of this year.

But after lodging a further appeal at crown court, McKinstry was allowed to carry on driving his cab - and the council continued to receive complaints about his conduct, including one just weeks before the appeal hearing at Warwick Crown Court on Friday 2 December.

The court heard details of a number of incidents which were reported to the council from June 2014 to November of this year.

In December 2014 a motorist contacted the council to allege McKinstry had verbally abused him after failing to allow his cab to pull out into traffic.

McKinstry initially denied using foul and abusive language during the incident, but under cross-examination, while insisting the motorist had started the exchange, admitted he "threw abuse" back.

The council received a further complaint about McKinstry in February 2015, when a disabled mother and her son were passengers in his cab.

When asked by the mother whether he was allowed to have the meter running while she loaded shopping into the cab, McKinstry was accused of being arrogant, rude and disrespectful - and he admitted he "might have been a bit rude" when quizzed about the incident by a council licensing officer.

In August 2015 McKinstry was caught on CCTV having a confrontation with a fellow cab driver at the taxi rank in North Street.

Though the CCTV footage failed to show what prompted the altercation, McKinstry was seen to approach the driver's car and put his head through the open window in a threatening manner.

​Following the licensing and committee's decision to revoke his licence, but still driving his cab pending appeal, McKinstry regularly took a council officer to and from work.

On a journey home from work in January of this year, the officer noticed a strong smell of faeces in McKinstry's cab. His driving was also erratic, cutting across lanes at roundabouts.

Once home, the officer sent an email to the taxi company McKinstry worked for to report the smell.

Later in January, after picking up the officer to take her to work, McKinstry quizzed her about the email.

Giving evidence to the court, the officer said McKinstry was aggressive in his tone of voice, angrily waving his hand at her during the conversation.

McKinstry then turned the cab's radio on at high volume and, when asked to turn it down, he again became aggressive before turning the radio off.

During the journey, McKinstry asked her for directions despite having taken the officer to work on a number of occasions and, at a roundabout, he pulled into the wrong lane.

After the officer pointed out the need to turn right at the roundabout, McKinstry started to change lane before nearly colliding with a van.

In evidence, the officer told the court McKinstry waved his hands in the air "in rage" following the near miss, leaving her "too petrified to speak."

On arrival at work, the officer broke down in tears.

The court heard of a further complaint the council received in November, just weeks before the hearing.

McKinstry picked up a passenger from Cineworld at the Junction One Retail Park.

In a statement to a council licensing officer, the passenger said McKinstry seemed to be asleep when she got into the cab.

After starting the journey, the cab twice drifted on to the other side of the road, on one occasion hitting the kerb.

When questioned about the incident by a licensing officer, McKinstry admitted he "may have been a bit tired" and "may have clipped a kerb."

Recorder Michael Burrows QC, who heard the appeal, said he accepted a number of references presented to the court in support of McKinstry.

But dismissing his appeal, Recorder Burrows described McKinstry in his written judgement as "temperamentally unsuited to work driving members of the public."

He added McKinstry, when challenged, "could be and often was awkward, combative, belligerent and even aggressive."

The judge ordered McKinstry to pay costs of £1,333.

Speaking after the hearing, Cllr Kathryn Lawrence, chair of the licensing and safety committee, said: "We have a duty to ensure all taxi drivers in Rugby comply with the terms and conditions of our licensing policy, which places paramount importance on the safety of the public.

"Taxi drivers hold a position of trust and have a duty of care, and when drivers fail in this duty we have no hesitation in revoking their licence.

"I am pleased a crown court judge agreed with our reasons for revoking Mr McKinstry's licence, and the case has now been drawn to a close."

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