Taxi driver loses appeal to operate in East Cambs

A West Suffolk taxi driver who admitted showing a female passenger a weblink to a pornographic website has lost an appeal to drive an East Cambridgeshire licensed taxi or private hire vehicle.

Mark Barnes, 57 of Brandon, Suffolk admitted engaging in conversations with sexual content and showing a weblink to a sexually explicit website to the woman he described as being young enough to be his daughter, while she was a fare paying passenger.

This incident took place in the Thetford area in 2023 and came to light as part of a joint investigation between the police and West Suffolk District Council. No charges relating to this investigation were ever brought forward by the police.

Following the incident Mr Barnes applied for a licence to drive vehicles licensed by East Cambridgeshire District Council, and was refused on the grounds that evidence supplied by West Suffolk District Council led licensing officers to have “grave concerns” over his suitability to work as a licensed taxi driver.

In refusing the licence, officers said:  “The admissions made by you in your taped interview with Suffolk Police demonstrates that you have acted at a level below that expected of a “fit and proper” person, and had you have acted in such a way whilst licensed with this determining authority your licence would have been revoked for serious breaches of the council’s Driver Code of Conduct designed to ensure public safety and maintenance of the reputation of the trade as a whole.”

Mr Barnes appealed against this decision and the case was brought before Peterborough Magistrates on Thursday 21 March 2024.

Magistrates threw out the appeal on the basis that the council was not wrong in refusing Mr Barnes a licence based on its own policies and procedures and the information provided by West Suffolk District Council. They also noted that whilst Mr Barnes had operated as a taxi driver for more than 20 years, he had accepted by his own admission he had engaged in a conversation with sexual content with a fare paying passenger in that he had shown her a weblink to a pornographic website and he had no valid reasons for stopping his taxi in a lay-by to allow the passenger to have a cigarette.

Mr Barnes was also ordered to pay £5450 in costs.