A POPULAR taxi driver who was caught in a sting by undercover PCSOs has thanked the community for their support and help to win his appeal.
The drama started for Dennis Street, 54, in January 2015 when he picked up two passengers who flagged him down in heavy rain as he was driving from Greenfield to Uppermill.
Little did he know they were undercover PCSOs who directed him straight to a waiting licensing officer and into 13 months of turmoil.
But after a successful appeal this month he is back serving the community after magistrates overturned his revoked licence.
Dennis, who lives at Watersheddings, explained: “It all started just over a year ago. It was a Friday night about 9pm, it was dark and absolutely lashing it down.
“I saw someone standing right in the middle of the road waving at me as if something was wrong so I stopped.
“He opened the door and asked for a lift to Uppermill so I said get in out of the rain. I shouldn’t have done it but I wanted to help as that’s the kind of person I am.”
Dennis, a taxi driver of more than 12 years, drove the pair to just behind Kenworthy Gardens – a journey lasting just 60 seconds and costing the men £2.
But as the cabbie let them out, a licensing officer got in and told him he had just committed an offence of “plying for trade”.
As a holder of a Private Hire Drivers’ Licence, Dennis is not permitted to pick up passengers without bookings, so was also uninsured for the job.
He was cautioned immediately and questioned about the incident, and was told to expect legal documents within six months – which arrived three days before the deadline.
Dennis said: “There is no animosity towards them as they were only doing their job. But the fact it was a trap was the wrong part.”
Dennis had his first hearing at Oldham Magistrates Court in September, when he received six points for driving without insurance – totaling 12 alongside his existing six for speeding.
But magistrates decided not to enforce the suspension after Dennis pled he needed it for his job, and gave him a warning and £435 fine.
And just when he thought the case was settled, Dennis got another letter from Oldham Council’s Licensing Committee summoning him before their panel in October.
The committee deemed him ‘not fit and proper’ to hold a Private Hire Licence and revoked his licence permanently.
But determined to fight for his livelihood, Dennis transferred with his staff from his Saddleworth-based taxi company Street Cars to Pennine Taxis and launched an appeal.
On February 25, this year he was back at Oldham Magistrates Court for the appeal hearing, supported by 17 family members, friends and customers.
Evidence was given by three character witnesses – respected journalist Ken Bennett, former detective inspector Mike Jones, and John Faye part owner of Pennine Taxis.
That was supported by 180 written statements – and Dennis has received 15 more since – and the magistrates deemed him fit to hold a Private Hire Licence and reinstated his licence.
Dennis concluded: “I hold my hands up for what I did and I am sorry. I thought I was doing a nice thing but I am still being punished – my insurance is now a lot dearer!
“I had some really nice words from the community and I want to thank my solicitor Robert Bimpson and all the people who have supported me.
“It has been an unbelievable year. There were quite a lot of tears, especially for me and my wife, after the appeal success.”