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Private hire driver convicted following Henley Regatta enforcement operation

A private hire driver must pay nearly £2,000 in fines after being found guilty of a string of driving offences at last year’s Henley Regatta.

Sakhawat Mushtaq, of Callington Road in Reading, is the fourth driver convicted for offences at the Regatta last July.

The 35-year-old has been convicted of illegally plying for hire, driving without the correct insurance, failing to wear his council issued badge and failure to display the council issued vehicle plate.

On Friday 12 May, Oxford Magistrates’ Court heard how officers from South Oxfordshire District Council working with colleagues from Reading Borough Council were on foot patrol in Thameside, Henley, when a Blue Toyota Prius belonging to Mr Mushtaq pulled over outside the Relais Hotel on double yellow lines. The car had previously been seen in the town earlier on multiple occasions that evening.

Having witnessed the car parked illegally in a prominent location, one officer approached and asked the driver if he could take them to Reading Railway Station. Mr Mushtaq replied saying he was available and could do the journey immediately for £40.

Further investigation revealed that Mr Mushtaq was licensed with Fareham Borough Council, he was only insured to carry out pre-booked work through a licensed private hire operator and he was not permitted to pick up passengers off the street without a booking being in place.

Mr Mushtaq pleaded not guilty to the offences of illegally plying for hire, driving without insurance and failing to wear his council issued badge.

In court, magistrates found Mr Mushtaq guilty and imposed fines totalling £1960 for the four offences, which included a fine of £1038 for having no insurance. They also imposed six points on Mr Mushtaq’s DVLA licence for the offence of having no insurance and awarded costs to the district council of £1000 with an additional £784 victim surcharge. The total of the fines and costs amounted to £3744.

Cllr David Rouane, Cabinet Member for Legal and Democratic at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Unfortunately we do come across some hackney carriage and private hire drivers attempting to pick up passengers illegally, particularly at events such as Henley Regatta. We will not hesitate to pursue drivers who come into South Oxfordshire, break the law and put the public at risk.

“With this year’s Regatta just around the corner, licensed drivers from outside of South Oxfordshire are warned that they should only come to fulfil legitimate pre-bookings. Licensing officers, working with colleagues from neighbouring councils, will be carrying out checks and conducting test purchases during the event and any driver found to be illegally plying for hire or putting the public at risk will be prosecuted.”