Taxi ruling demands Silver Service cease in Port on February 27

HASTINGS Hire Cars Silver Service will cease operation in Port Macquarie from February.

The move relates to a lengthy court battle between the company Bretabac, which owns the business, and the state government department Transport NSW.

Bretabac managing director Peter Williamson, 74, of Forster, holds five licences in our town and employs 11 full- and part-time drivers.

He pleaded guilty to one count of failing to ensure there was no taxi meter or similar device installed in his cars, one of permitting the driving of hire cars while licences were cancelled, and one of knowingly permitting driver Craig Ryan to ply, stand or park the car for hire on any road.

The pleas were entered following a deal with the department whereby the business would move out of the Hastings.

In February, investigations found hire cars operated by Bretabac had used a meter eight times in Port Macquarie.

The department alleged William­son continued to operate hire cars when licences were cancelled, with 158 journeys recorded in April.

The offences could attract fines of up to $120,000.

At Port Macquarie Local Court on Monday December 10, Williamson’s lawyer said his client ran the largest hire car and taxi operation on the north coast.

The department had issued Bretabac with 300 court attendance notices, with a potential total penalty of $500,000.

Most of those charges have been withdrawn or condensed into the three matters heard in court this week.

The lawyer said Williamson admitted he had breached the act but the way he did so did not disregard state laws.

“He was chased out of town by the department,” the lawyer said.

Of the Smart Move machines installed in Williamson’s cars, the lawyer said – while they had the ability to operate as fare meters – the machines were intended for monitoring communication bet­ween cars and distances travelled.

In relation to the drive while cancelled charge, Williamson said he had successfully applied for stay orders, and did not close the business while the application was heard.

In relation to the last charge, the lawyer said Williamson did not financially benefit from Ryan taking a passenger without a pre-booking because the fare did not appear in the job summary.

He said the driver knew company policy but did not adhere to it.

Magistrate Thomas Hodgson found the charges proven without conviction, placing Williamson on a section-10 good-behaviour bond for a year.

Mr Hodgson also ordered Williamson to pay $1500 in professional costs to the department.

Meanwhile, driver Craig Ryan was caught by compliance officers taking passengers without a pre-booking.

The 46-year-old Hill Street resident pleaded guilty in Port Mac­quarie Local Court on Monday to two counts of operating a private hire car ply/stand for hire on road, and two of operating a private hire car without a pre-booking.

The Hastings Hire Cars Silver Service employee was seen by Transport NSW officers standing outside a hotel in Port Macquarie next to his car on July 14 at 9.45am.

The officer asked him to take him to another hotel, which Ryan agreed to do.

In court on Monday, magistrate Thomas Hodgson fined Ryan $100, plus $83 costs, and ordered him to pay $200 professional costs to the department.

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