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Cycling campaigner warns of increased danger as onus shifts to councils to prove people unfit to drive cabs

A Brighton & Hove taxi driver whose Hackney carriage licence was taken away following a hit-and-run incident in which a cyclist was injured has won it back after appealing to the High Court.

The landmark ruling, handed down last Wednesday, shifts the onus onto licensing authorities to demonstrate someone is unfit to hold such a licence.

A cycling campaigners has said that the ruling may lead to unsuitable people being allowed to drive taxis.

Brighton & Hove City Council revoked Mehrdad Kaivanpor’s licence after he was arrested and charged with careless driving and failure to stop after he knocked cyclist Robyn Gargyn from her bike in May 2014, reports The Argus.

Ms Gargan, who sustained bruises and suffered headaches following the incident, said after it happened: “He must have known what happened. He knocked a 19-year-old girl off her bike yet he just drove off.

“I am not happy knowing he is still out there. Of all people, you would expect a taxi driver to stop – I could have been dead.”

Kaivanpor reported the incident to police an hour after it happened and in October last year was fined £650 after pleading guilty to the charges and had 9 points put on his driving licence, says the newspaper.

At the same time, he was unsuccessful in appealing the suspension of his Hackney carriage licence because he was unable to prove he was a “fit and proper” person to hold one. It was a further appeal against that decision that was heard by the High Court last week.

David Lewis-Hall, on behalf of Kaivanpor, argued that rather than the taxi driver having to fulfil those criteria, the onus should be on the council to prove he or she is unfit to hold a licence.

Lord Justice Beatson and Mr Justice Wilkie agreed with him, in a decision that will bind local authorities across England and Wales, unless overturned on any subsequent higher appeal.

Mr Lewis-Hall said: “If the council are interfering with your right to earn a living, then surely it must be right for them to justify their interference.”

“This is an important ruling as it means that taxi drivers start from a position of innocence in the eyes of the court - rather than having to prove they are 'not guilty'.

"This is an important point from a natural justice and human rights angle,” he added.

However, Becky Reynolds, head of campaigns at Brighton & Hove cycling campaigners Bricycles, warned that the judgment could make the roads less safe.

“We really need to be very strict about who we licence,” she told the Argus.

“Licensing the wrong people could lead to more death and injury on our roads.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.