London black cab drivers have lost a legal challenge which argued that Uber’s London operating licence was granted by a biased judge. The United Cabbies Group (UCG) said the decision to give Uber a 15-month permit in June was “tainted by actual or apparent bias.” The ‘probationary’ licence of 15 months was granted after Transport for London (TfL) refused to grant a normal five-year licence. In the 15 months Uber gets the chance to prove it is ‘fit and proper’ to service the London market.
In August last year Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, who granted the temporary licence, stepped down from hearing future cases involving Uber. That was the result of a newspaper report about alleged financial connections between her husband’s (Lord Arbuthnot) investment business and the ride-hailing app.
But at a hearing in London earlier this month, lawyers for the black cab drivers (UCG) acknowledged Lady Arbuthnot was unaware of the links. But they maintained she should have “checked for any potential conflicts of interest” before making her decision on Uber’s licence. They also argued the decision was not actually open to her because Uber did not meet the ‘fit and proper person’ criteria necessary for holding a licence in London.
However, the cabbies’ case was dismissed by Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and Mr Justice Supperstone, who commented in their ruling that “the list of tenuous connections unearthed” by UCG fell “well short of evidence that would begin to give a fair-minded observer even pause for thought.”
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