THE owner and a driver of an illegal taxi firm have been fined, and had its earnings confiscated, after running mini-buses without a licence or insurance.
Martin Perkes, 54, of Haynes West End was sentenced at Luton Crown Court on September 27 after pleading guilty to three consumer protection offences. He was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay back £16,391.57 he made illegally over a nine month period while running 'Martin’s Minibuses' with no licences, no authorised drivers or vehicle insurance. He was also told to pay the council’s costs of £1,800.
The investigation carried out by Central Bedfordshire Council's Trading Standards and Financial Investigation teams began after other local taxi companies raised concerns. The team found that Perkes was hiring friends to drive his taxis, despite knowing they were not licensed or insured. The company advertised for specialist airport and function services and had several private contracts.
Undercover officers from the council booked a taxi to take them to Luton Airport, where they gained intelligence about the company for their investigation.
Officers later, with the help of Bedfordshire Police, stopped one of Perkes’ drivers and Perkes himself and arrested him. A full search of his home was carried out under court warrant to seize computer equipment and business records.
The driver who was stopped, Keith Barber, 68, of Victoria Road, Shefford, pleaded guilty to driving without a private hire licence and driving without insurance. He received six penalty points on his licence and a financial penalty of £523.
In conjunction with the criminal case, the council’s Financial Investigation Unit (FIU) probed Perkes’ financial affairs to establish exactly how much money he had made whilst trading illegally.
Judge Bridge ordered a confiscation order, which was agreed to be the benefit obtained as a result of the criminal activity.
Cllr Brian Spurr, executive member for sustainable communities, said: “This was a complex and detailed investigation which has ultimately resulted in illegal taxis being taken off our roads. As well as sending a clear message that we will track down and prosecute rogue operators, I hope that this case will alert the public to the importance of only using taxis that are properly licensed and drivers that are authorised and insured. Anyone who gets into an unregistered taxi or who takes out a contract without checking a company’s credentials is putting their safety or the safety of others at risk. If you have any concerns at all, our Trading Standards team can help.”
For more information about Trading Standards, visit www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/tradingstandards