A taxi driver has been slapped with a substantial fine after being caught operating illegally in Reading town centre.

Saleem Raza, 63, of Cressingham Road, Reading, was caught without a licence and illegally offering to drive people home without a prior booking in a council sting operation.

He has now been hit with costs totalling £2,900 and given eight penalty points on his driving licence.

In the early hours of the morning after a busy Saturday night, Mr Raza was parked in West Street outside a late-night food takeaway, an area known to Council licensing officers for drivers illegally plying for hire.

Mr Raza was approached by a licensing officer and agreed to take them to Tilehurst for £15 without the required prior booking.

After a court hearing, he was fined £1,000 for the offence of plying for hire.

He was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,500 and a victim surcharge of £400.

Mr Raza was dealt the penalty points, fines and costs at a hearing at Reading Magistrates Court on Thursday, April 4.

Celebrating the prosecution, Rob Abell, consumer protection group manager at the council said: “Public safety and confidence to use regulated and licensed taxis is of paramount importance.

“Private Hire and Hackney Carriage customers are entitled to trust the person driving is properly vetted, authorised, checked, and licensed.

“Unlicensed drivers who undermine that trust will be robustly dealt with to maintain public confidence and ensure safety in our nighttime economy.

“The Council Licensing Team worked tirelessly to bring this complex case to court, and I am delighted the District Judge recognised the importance of it.

“Any customer who has any concerns about taxi or private hire drivers can report them in confidence to us at: licensing@reading.gov.uk, or through the Council Contact Centre on 0118 937 3787.”

Mr Raza was caught by the council’s licensing team on Sunday, May 7, 2023.

He has the right to appeal. In an email, Mr Raza stated that he will be appealing the decision. 

There are two types of taxis in Reading. Drivers of cabs, officially known as hackney carriages, are allowed to be hailed by customers and conduct journeys on the spot.

Meanwhile, private hire drivers can only be booked in advance. Those private hire drivers who wrongly pick up customers on the spot are illegally ‘plying for hire’.

Legitimate private hire taxi drivers of good standing are encouraged to join the Reading Private Hire Association, which was founded in 2022 to advocate for the private hire trade.

Drivers can find out more by emailing readingprivatehireassociation@gmail.com or reaching out on Facebook.