Regular readers will know I’ve been involved in a case after being refused a short taxi fare in Carmarthen.
Events took a nasty turn when the taxi driver claimed I had lied, which led to the Carmarthenshire Council Licensing Committee requesting I turn up in person yesterday.
I’m not quite sure what I expected, but it wasn’t what followed. After a sixty mile trip from Cardiff, I was shown around the Council chamber before the Committee members arrived. Ah. It looked just like a court room. I was shown where I would sit – all on my own – and then the long row at the front of the hall where the 15-odd Committee members would take their seats.
I was instructed how to turn my microphone on and off, so only one person could speak at a time. Then I freaked. Just a little, but enough for the nerves to bounce around. The members filed in. The case history was read out, including a defence letter from the taxi driver I hadn’t heard in full before.
I was astounded to hear him brand the entire case a ‘fabrication’, which had caused him no end of distress. According to him, I had merely asked for directions, and being the helpful cabby he was, he duly told me. I then decided not to take a taxi, instead telling him I would walk, ‘as it was a nice day’.
I was asked if I wanted to reply before questioning began, so I posed a rhetorical question – ‘would someone like me, with MS, and extreme heat intolerance as a result, decide to walk up a steep hill with a bag and suitcase on one of the hottest days of the year, after an excruciatingly hot and uncomfortable train journey from Cardiff due to a previous cancellation, so two train-loads of people were crammed in to one and there was no air?’
Then the questioning began and it wasn’t pleasant. I was asked to describe the MS treatment I was on, which I did. I was asked to name the date of my last treatment, which I did, although I have no idea why. I was asked to explain how MS affected my every day life. Until I finally cracked and asked why my MS was being so closely questioned. What on earth did this have to do with a taxi driver refusing a short fare? When taxi drivers are formally bound, on being given a license, to agree to take any fare, no matter what the distance.
CCTV images were described to the members. They show a period of almost a minute when I was talking to the driver. A minute is a very long time to hear, ‘up the hill and take a right’. I was seen fumbling in my bag and was asked what I was doing. I answered that I was pulling out paperwork to show the meeting I was going to, then a card I carry in my wallet, which states that I have MS and may need assistance.
Finally, a statement was read out from the receptionist who was on duty at the hotel I was checking in at. She remembered seeing me arrive in a ‘distressed state’ and she had asked me if I needed help. I had explained to her that I had been refused a taxi. Surely this was irrefutable proof? But. The statement ended by saying that after a couple of minutes I went outside.
One Committee member pounced; ‘And why, if the day was so hot, did you then leave the hotel and go outside?’ He sat back, obviously satisfied with his powers of deduction. I asked him if he knew the hotel. ‘Of course’, he answered. I replied, ‘then you know that just outside there are a whole bunch of trees – a beautiful shaded area. Far cooler out there by the trees than inside the hotel? On such a hot day?’
Which took us back to my MS being on trial, not the driver.
Eventually, after being ushered out of the chamber for the members to debate the outcome, I was called back in. They had ‘no hesitation’ in accepting my evidence and that the driver ‘was made aware of my health problems and that his further refusal amounts to a serious aggravating factor’.
One final note. The Committee wanted to suspend him for three weeks. I argued for one. Why?
As I said to the press yesterday, I am not a vindictive person and this was never about punishing someone financially. If I had done, I would have sunk to the level this driver did, when he concocted a web of lies about me and what actually happened. Would I have been a happier person if he had been deprived of three weeks worth of fares in the run up to Christmas?
No. I would have been happier, back in August, if he had accepted my fare. Failing that, an apology and a deeper understanding would have been nice.
Press about this story – BBC and Wales Online.
A PANEL of 15?? What on earth do they do to occupy themselves normally? For goodness’ sake it sounds like the Munich war trials. A simple apology would have been adequate. Vindicated at least I suppose. X
Exactly. It was a pretty horrendous experience. Me, all on my lonesome, across a chamber of 15 (if they all turned up, and I think they did). Pretty much like being on trial.
I always thought a job interview with three people on a panel was bad, but 15 for something I hadn’t done was a whole new level.
I will never have an apology – not now he has said I lied. Only two people know what happened that day, and let’s just say, I sleep well at night.
Stumbling in Flats, respect to you, this is such amazing work, standing your ground and standing up for our rights. And to see that it made the BBC website…I want to thank you for having the guts to publicise this, to get it out into the public eye. Taking up cases like this takes a hell of a lot of emotional strength, and you handled it all with decency and integrity.
That’s so kind of you, thank you!
I had to see it through, although it was beyond stressful (it’s not been the best year in that regard).
It just makes me mad, this casual discrimination – whether MS or not.
I can only hope that this case will make some difference in the future.
So glad to hear this. Sounds like the members of the Licensing Committee must not have been able to find an excuse not to turn up (we only usually have about half a dozen on the day)! I am so glad that you got the result that was due. Very impressed as well that you were so magnanimous about the penalty. Hope this has given you a bit of closure (sorry!), and thank you for taking it all the way and raising the profile of these issues. Keep on doing what you do – you’re a great example to us all 😀
I was surprised to see so many turn up! I once worked for Kensington and Chelsea Council so was basing my expectations on that …
It’s definitely given me closure, and am happy to use that word! It’s been a really hard four months, from the incident to now.
Totally stunned by the course of questioning, but I think the leader of the council was too, and I had several apologies afterwards.
Good on you seeing it through to the end! Not easy to sit in front of any size panel never mind 15 of them! It doesn’t take 15 to see this driver was at it! A 3 week suspension doesn’t solve anything. If he requires to take a class in common sense to stop him doing this again then give him it. 3 weeks sitting at home twiddling his thumbs at the busiest time of year isn’t any kind of solution! I only had a 3 person panel fire questions at me regarding PIP appeal and I could feel a spotlight on me, 15 may have made me pass out!
I’m totally with you – having fifteen people firing questions at me was unexpected and harsh. After all, I was not the defendant?
Does make me question whether anything will change. I can only hope the ensuing media coverage might make them change their attitudes?
What a bloody awful mess, from beginning to end. You’ve done the right thing, in all respects. As you say you can sleep soundly. The inquisition you faced was unpleasant and unnecessary. As I’ve said before, so much could have been achieved with a simple apology. On to the next battle. Is there enough protein in the fridge?
There always seems to be a battle when it comes to MS lol!
As for protein, that’s an ongoing saga in itself. Apparently The Teenager is bulking up before he will start shredding next year. Got no idea, although I have to supply 4000 calories a day 🙁 Mind you, he’s looking good on it!
Council members love to show up and justify their exisatence. The WIfe was applying for a livence to look after dogs in the house and 10+ turned up to say Yay or Nay. A council icence required! All asked a question, some of them knew nothing about pets but they had to appear interested. Laughable
I think that’s kind of what was happening yesterday – especially all the questions about my MS and how it affected me. Totally besides the point.
The taxi driver doesn’t look good in this at all, his picture should have been published!
Well done to you for managing the ordeal so well, especially the ridiculous questioning, shame on them.
I know! He wasn’t named to begin with but now it’s gone this far, he has been and it’s now out there forever. He had also said in his statement that he would appeal if he lost the case, which was worrying as I was told that this would mean it would go to court.
Thankfully, he has apparently accepted the decision and will not be appealing. I think it would have been mindless to do so, given the overwhelming evidence in my favour!
…just agree with everything everyone has said. Well done for seeing this through. Hope the stress of it all doesn’t exacerbate your MS symptoms…but so admire your courage.!!!
Thank you! Have to say, it’s wiped me out and I’ve been sleeping a lot during the day since Thursday 🙁
I’m just glad it’s all over!
Glad to hear you’ve come to the end of the process at least though I’m sure you’ll keep the emotional cost of the experience close to you for some time to come. Your generosity in ensuring the driver didn’t suffer seriously damaging consequences is humbling to read and I hope he understands how much worse they could have been. I hope his conscience pricks him at night in bed, enough to ensure he becomes a reformed character.
I wonder if you were questioned so closely about MS as the panel are largely ignorant of the effects the disease has and perhaps now, all will feel more knowledgable both personally and corporately as a council committee. I was up in London at a hospital appointment last week and had a taxi back to Paddington station. During the journey the driver asked me why I’d had a taxi so I told him how I was feeling tired etc…of course we started talking about MS and by the end of the journey he knocke £10 off my £25 fare…because I’d taught him so much about MS that he hadn’t known before! Just shows that not all drivers of taxis are as cruel as the one you encountered in August.
It was also lovely to ‘see’ you in the BBC clip and now I can ‘see’ you in my mind as I read your wonderful blog accounts.
All the very best to you and the teenager xx
What a fabulous experience you had! Just goes to show there are some decent people out there.
I remember a good few years ago The Teenager was on the train back from visiting his dad in London. He told me he got into conversation with a medical student who said he knew very little about MS. By the end of the journey, the student told him he would be looking in to it more when he got back to Uni and may even decide to go in to neurology!
It’s all about communication. I really hope the Committee has learned a little about the effects of living with MS. And also the taxi driver! He knows exactly what happened that day and he’ll have to live with knowing he lied and made me go through this whole experience. It’s quite sad.
Thank you for the comment about my blog – has put a smile on my face 🙂