Guide dog in front of a bus

Assembly wants bigger fines for guide dog owner discrimination

07 September 2016

The London Assembly today backed the Guide Dogs for the Blind campaign to ensure that there are far more effective sanctions against private hire drivers who refuse access to assistance dogs.

The Assembly agreed a unanimous motion supporting the call for an increase in the penalty for refusing carriage to be amended to a level 4 fine, in keeping with offences such as ticket touting.

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM, who proposed the motion said:

“Although the law is crystal clear that it is a criminal offence for taxi and private hire drivers to refuse access to disabled people with assistance dogs, it is sadly the case that such discrimination takes place far too often, especially in relation to private hire drivers.

It is time that the law was properly enforced and effective sanctions applied when blatant discrimination is shown against blind and other disabled people.  

Disabled people with registered assistance dogs should have the confidence to know that they can always use a taxi or private hire vehicle which will carry them and their dog at no extra charge.”

 

Jennette Arnold OBE AM, who seconded the motion said:

“Many people rely on assistance dogs to help them lead independent lives. It can only be deeply distressing to be refused access to services others take for granted, such as private hire vehicles.

We need a strong deterrent if we want to see the end to this practice in London. It’s time Government ensure drivers who refuse passengers with assistance dogs receive sanctions that reflect the level of distress caused.”

 

The full text of the Motion is:

“This Assembly notes with concern that discrimination against assistance dog owners is widespread, with three quarters of those owners surveyed by Guide Dogs for the Blind reporting that they had been refused access to services at some point because they had an assistance dog with them. This Assembly also notes evidence collected by BBC London Television on the prevalence of this problem in London in 2014.

This Assembly further notes that while owners of assistance dogs are entitled by law to access goods and services without discrimination, the law in practice is not effective with the worst offenders of this legislation being private hire drivers, with a small minority of offending drivers having a devastating effect on assistance dogs owners.

This Assembly backs the Guide Dogs for the Blind campaign to ensure that there are far more effective sanctions against drivers who refuse access, noting that the average fine currently imposed is a modest £195.

This Assembly urges the Chairman of the London Assembly to write to the Secretary of State for Transport expressing support for the penalty for refusing carriage to be amended to a level 4 fine, in keeping with offences such as ticket touting, so as to ensure that both drivers and magistrates are fully aware of the unacceptable nature of refusing access to assistance dog owners in London.”

Notes to editors

  1. Watch the full webcast.
  2. The motion was agreed unanimously.
  3. Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM, who proposed the motion, is available for interviews. Please see contact details below. 
  4. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.

For media enquiries, please contact Alison Bell on 020 7983 4428.  For out of hours media enquiries, call 020 7983 4000 and ask for the London Assembly duty press officerNon-media enquiries should be directed to the Public Liaison Unit on 020 7983 4100.