London’s iconic Black cabbies are challenging Uber’s operating licence at the High Court, have claimed the judge was “biased” towards Uber.
The United Cabbies Group Ltd (UCG) who represent Hackney Carriage Drivers have said that chief magistrate, Emma Arbuthnot’s decision to grant the taxi app ride company a 15-month licence was in fact “tainted by actual or apparent bias.”
However, Transport for London (TfL) refused to renew the licence over safety concerns, although Westminster Magistrate’s Court granted one a “probationary” basis.
A newspaper article allegedly claimed that there were financial connections between her husband, Lord Arbuthnot and Uber in August last year.
In a statement issued at the time, a spokesman for the judiciary said: “Chief Magistrate Arbuthnot did not know the Qatar Investment Authority for which her husband had acted as an adviser was a shareholder in Uber or had any links with Uber.
“Lord Arbuthnot was not aware that the Qatar Investment Authority was a shareholder in Uber or that it had any links to Uber.
“This is the first time that such a connection has been brought to the Chief Magistrate’s attention.”
The spokesman added: “It is essential that judges not only are, but are seen to be, absolutely impartial.”
On Wednesday a hearing took place in London, solicitors for the UCG did acknowledge that the judge was not aware of any links however, she should have “checked for any potential conflicts of interest.”
The solicitors acting for the UCG said that the judge was not allowed to make a decision, because Uber did not meet the “fir and proper person” criteria to hold a licence.
Robert Griffiths QC, for UCG said to Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and Mr Justice Supperstone that it was “significant” the judge did not say, she was “satisfied” the taxi firm met the criteria.
Adding, “In our submission, what the learned Judge has done is to grant a temporary licence to [Uber] on the basis that it may become a fit and proper person.”
The judges will give their ruling of the case at a later date.