A taxi driver, who scammed passengers 270 times over a six-month period by secretly using a remote control to add €9 to fares, has been allowed have his licence back and work again.
Raymond Pidgeon, 65, from Kilakee Close, Greenpark, Walkinstown, Dublin 12, will be allowed to resume driving his taxi despite pleading guilty last year to over-charging customers contrary to the Taxi Regulation Act.
He used a concealed remote control device to increase fares on his meter, which he did 15 times a week from February 1 until June 12, 2019.
His prosecution at Dublin District Court in January 2020 followed a massive probe by the National Transport Authority (NTA) into widespread use of a device to rip off unsuspecting taxi passengers.
The offence can result in a fine of up to €4,000. As a result of mitigating factors, however, he was handed a nominal fine of €200 and was ordered to pay €400 in prosecution costs.
After the prosecution, gardaí revoked his taxi licence.
However, Pidgeon came back to the district court on Monday to appeal the licence revocation which was opposed by gardai from the carriage office.
Judge John Brennan noted the evidence from NTA inspector Liam Kavanagh who investigated reports that some taxis were over-charging by covertly using a remote device with certain meters.
Following a complaint by a tourist, Pidgeon had been interviewed by the NTA in mid-June 2019 about a €20 over-charge on a fare. The inspector became suspicious by Pidgeon’s explanation and €9 could not be accounted for, the court heard.
He learned the taxi driver used an Aguila meter, the type that was being used with the remote control. He cautioned Pidgeon again and told him he was also investigating the use of remote devices to over-charge taxi passengers.
At that point the taxi man “broke down”; he admitted he was one of the drivers and that he had bought one of the remote controls.
He had done it for eight months but could only be charged for the offences committed over the latest six-month period prior to the investigation.
Mr Kavanagh said the taxi man acted “cute” by not bringing the remote to the meeting, but he later handed it over.
As a result of the NTA investigation, 260 taxi meters were recalled and recalibrated.
Mr Pidgeon, who had no prior convictions, was co-operative, the appeal heard.
Wife's ill health
Pleading for the restoration of the driver’s taxi licence, Matthew Holmes BL asked the court to note the evidence that his client’s wife had been suffering ill health at the time. Medical documents were available.
The barrister submitted that the witness’s description of his client as “cute” did not stack up with the evidence of a man crying and giving cooperation which assisted the investigation.
Mr Holmes described it as a “slip-up” by the driver in his 20-year career.
Judge Brennan remarked that slip- up lasted six months.
He noted there had been other convictions as a result of the investigation. These were serious matters for members of the public who were essentially defrauded by way of over-charging, he added.
He took into account testimonials on Pidgeon’s good, hard-working character and that he had pleaded guilty when the prosecution came to court last year after which he had suffered from the publicity. The health issues were not mitigating circumstances, however, he held.
He noted Pidgeon had been a taxi driver for a long time and that his co-operation assisted the NTA’s large scale investigation. He has been off the road since March last year and “colloquially speaking he has done his time”.
That tipped the balance in his favour, said Judge Brennan as he allowed the appeal.