Teen-death cabbie refused new licence

APPEAL REJECTED ... Paul Stephenson has lost an appeal to have his taxi driving licence reinstated.
APPEAL REJECTED ... Paul Stephenson has lost an appeal to have his taxi driving licence reinstated.

A CABBIE convicted of causing the death of a teenage passenger has failed in a bid to return to the taxi trade.

Paul Stephenson was driving in Hedworth Lane, Jarrow, on March 29, 2009, when Aaron Todd either fell out or exited his Fiat Scudo sustaining serious head injuries.

The 18-year-old, of Kirkstone Avenue, Jarrow, died in hospital six days later.

Stephenson, 64, was found guilty of causing death by careless driving at Teesside Crown Court on May 4 the following year, after pleading not guilty to a charge of death by dangerous driving.

He was sentenced to a nine-month prison term, suspended for 18 months, with community service and banned from driving for 18 months.

Stephenson, of St Hilda Street, South Shields, a taxi driver with almost 30 years’ experience, also had his licence to drive cabs revoked.

After regaining his driving licence, he applied to South Tyneside Council in April to have his taxi licence reinstated.

Borough licensing officers rejected his bid and Stephenson appealed against the decision at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday – and was again unsuccessful.

Magistrates decided that government guidelines that say someone convicted of death by careless driving should not be considered for a taxi licence until three years have passed from the end of their sentence – meaning Stephenson could apply again in December 2014.

Chairman of the bench Barry Hunter said: “We’ve considered all of the circumstances. It is a serious offence and the guidelines say three years must have passed.

“We’ve heard nothing to make us feel that we can deviate from those guidelines.”

Sentencing at Teesside Crown Court on May 27, 2010, the judge, Mr Justice Davis, said Mr Todd, an apprentice joiner and talented footballer, had jumped from the vehicle as it moved off, banging his head on the road surface.

It was found that Mr Stephenson had caused the death of the teenager, who was with four friends at the time, by driving off with his cab door open.

When asked yesterday about how he felt about the case, Stephenson said he accepted the verdict.

He added: “It was very upsetting.”

The court heard that the council sent Stephenson a letter informing him of the decision to reject his application in May, citing his conviction, the personal representations he made and the council’s guidelines on granting licences to people with convictions.

Graham Cook, representing Stephenson, said those guidelines state that a conviction for death by careless driving would normally result in any application being refused for up to a year after the conviction had ended and it was the national guidelines – which were not cited in the council’s letter that had been used.

Jeff Young, one of the council’s licencing officers who turned down Stephenson’s application said it was an “unusual” case.

He added: “His responsibility is for the safety of his passengers and other road users.

“It was a difficult situation and we had to make a decision using all of the information we had available.

South Tyneside Council would not comment on the outcome of the case.

Twitter: @shieldsgazcrime