Ban for unlicensed taxi drivers

A HUSBAND and wife from Portishead have been prosecuted for running an unlicensed taxi service following two sting operations carried out by council officers.

Michael and Elizabeth Cook, of Forrester Road, have now both been disqualified from driving after appearing in front of North Somerset magistrates on May 10.

An investigation began in December after Mr Cook, aged 54, picked up passengers from Bristol and drove at excessive speeds to avoid a police car before crashing.

He stopped the passengers from calling the emergency services and told them to say they were his friends.

After a complaint was made to North Somerset Council, two council officers ordered a taxi from Cookie’s Cabs / Cars the following day.

They were told the car would be driven by Mrs Cook but would not have taxi plates on as it was not a proper taxi.

During their journey, they drove past a police car that began following them. Mrs Cook, aged 66, then said ‘oh no - the cops are behind us’ before telling the officers to say they were her friends.

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The car was pulled over by the police and Mrs Cook eventually admitted she was working as an unlicensed private-hire driver.

During an interview in January, Mr Cook denied running Cookie’s Cabs from his home address but admitted being paid to drive passengers to and from Bristol on December 3. He also admitted asking his wife to do the pick-up the following day.

Despite this, the council continued to receive complaints about Mr Cook’s activities.

On March 4, council officers booked another taxi for �10. Mr Cook told them he was a taxi driver but not licensed. He also said he had no proper insurance.

At court, Mr Cook was disqualified from driving for 18 months, fined �100 and ordered to pay �500 costs and a �15 victim surcharge.

Mrs Cook was disqualified from driving for six months, fined �100 and ordered to pay �200 costs and a �15 victim surcharge.

PC Marion Carrett said: “This illegal operation not only had an effect on other local established businesses but also had wider implications for the public, in particular those who were customers and had their safety risked by the family’s disregard for not obtaining a licence.”