Officers from the National Transport Authority (NTA) carried out "a sting operation" on a 71-year-old man in Kenmare who was operating taxis without a licence, following a complaint "from within the industry", Kenmare District Court has heard.
The “affable” Peter O’Sullivan felt he was too old to get a taxi licence, the court was told.
Kenmare had only one licenced taxi and five to six hackneys and only Saturday nights were busy, local gardaí said.
Mr O’Sullivan, of Dromneavane, Kenmare, was described as “affable” and cooperative by NTA compliance officer Liam Kavanagh - to which Judge James O’Connor replied: “He is always that.”
He had previously been given the benefit of the Probation Act for a similar offence, the judge recalled.
At one point, Judge O’Connor warned Mr O’Sullivan: “Don’t try any roguery this time - we’d spot it a mile away!”
Outlining the first count, Mr Kavanagh said he was directed to go to Kenmare and investigate a complaint from within the industry of a man operating a taxi service without a public service licence.
At 2pm on the afternoon of Saturday April 19th, 2014, he observed Mr O’Sullivan dropping off passengers at Main Street, Kenmare.
Mr O'Sullivan agreed a fee of €80 to take officers from the NTA to Farranfore airport. He returned with an '06 Mercedes, a vehicle which had a hackney licence but not a taxi licence.
On a second occasion four months later on June 18th, 2014, NTA compliance officer Jim Hickey observed Mr O’Sullivan operating a minibus for hire, again on Main Street, Kenmare and this vehicle did not have the appropriate public service licence either.
“He said to me he was too old to get a licence,” Mr Hickey said.
However, age was not a prohibition, the court was told. Garda clearance, tax clearance and an industry knowledge test were the requirements for taxis, along with a driving licence and insurance.
Mr O’Sullivan’s solicitor Padraig O’Connell said NTA officers had “effectively carried out a sting operation”. His client’s insurance and other documents were all in order and at issue was “a technical point” - that of the appropriate public service licence.
He had warned his client on a previous occasion 18 months ago to get his paper work in order.
“He is very affable - he simply lacks confidence,” the solicitor said.
Warning him to “Be very straight with the judge”, Mr O’Connell called on Mr O’Sullivan to give an undertaking to apply for the proper licence.
“I’m going to apply for a licence. I’ll have my tax clearance in a few weeks. I won’t operate in the meantime,” Mr O’Sullivan told Judge O’Connor.
The matter has now been adjourned to May.
Mr O’Sullivan pleaded guilty to both counts, involving separate vehicles, of driving a vehicle in a public place for carriage of persons without a public service licence, contrary to Section 22 of the Taxi Regulations Act 2013.