A taxi used to carry children to and from school was found to be unlicensed when stopped by council officers, a court heard.
The vehicle was being used to operate a school transport contract for Gwynedd council at a language unit at Ysgol Eifionydd in Porthmadog on June 20 last year. But the licence for the Skoda Octavia, which was owned by A1 Cars of Bethesda, had expired six weeks earlier.
Taxi boss David Alan Owen, 60, of Bryn Tirion, Bethesda, pleaded guilty to being the proprietor of a private hire vehicle without having a current licence. He was fined £450 and ordered to pay £245 costs.
Lesley Mitchell, prosecuting on behalf of Gwynedd Council, told magistrates at Caernarfon that the licence for the taxi had expired on May 8, some six weeks before it was seen at the Porthmadog school. She added Owen’s firm had been awarded a school transport contract to carry four pupils from the school from June 19 to July 11.
Council officials had sent Owen a written reminder that the licence was about to expire and also called him to advise him not to use the vehicle until the licence had been renewed.
Ms Mitchell said council records showed Owen had been late in renewing taxi licences on 16 previous occasions but there were no relevant previous convictions.
Gilly Harradance, defending, said Owen had run the business for 16 years, employed 14 staff and operated 18 taxis.
She said all are licensed and the business pays Gwynedd council £3,000 in renewal fees each year.
“He tries his best to renew the licences on time and does his best to run the business as well as he can,” she said.
The solicitor explained Owen planned to sell the vehicle and had not renewed the licence as they cannot be transferred from one vehicle to another.
The Skoda had not been used but was pressed into service on this occasion after another vehicle broke down. “He had not realised the consequences of using the vehicle,” she said. “Mr Owen is very embarrassed to be before the court in these circumstances.”
Two charges of using a motor vehicle without insurance and failing to return a hackney carriage identity plate within seven days of notice to do so were withdrawn by the prosecution.
A Gwynedd council spokesperson told the Daily Post: "We are satisfied with the outcome of today’s hearing and would like to thank the magistrates for highlighting the importance of ensuring that taxi drivers are licensed as a means of ensuring public safety.
"We take this issue of taxi drivers continuing to operate under expired licences very seriously, and believe that the severity of the sentence passed reflects the court’s view on the matter.
"We will continue to work closely with local taxi companies to ensure that the public have access to safe, regulated and insured transport. We would emphasise that the vast majority of taxi companies operate within local and national rules and the rare examples of unlicensed vehicles undermine their hard work and diligence.
"This is why we take such action against unregulated taxis and would urge members not to take a lift from unlicensed taxis."