Following the first known prosecution under the Deregulation Act 2015, ‘Skyline Taxis and Private Hire Limited’ and its managing director, Gavin Sokhi, successfully persuaded the Magistrates Court that there was no case to answer before District Judge Malcolm Dodds sitting at High Wycombe Magistrates Court. Milton Keynes Council then appealed by way of case stated to the Divisional Court where the matter was heard before Lord Justice Hickinbottom and Mr Justice Gilbart. They handed down a comprehensive judgment dismissing the appeal and upholding the computerised booking arrangements.

The court held that the Dergulation Act changes clearly were not intended to inhibit modern commercial life by requiring manual booking systems. Kevin Leigh acted for Skyline and Daniel Oscroft for Mr Sokhi, both counsel at No5 Barristers’ Chambers who were instructed by Mike Hayward and Nathan Taylor-Allkins of Woodfines Solicitors.

The council had alleged that the iCabbi computerised system operated by the company breached the change in the law regarding subcontracting work to another licensed operator. In this case that operator was another part of the Skyline business licensed separately by the neighbouring South Northamptonshire District Council. Milton Keynes council saw this as a test case and sought to argue that the law required human intervention in the booking system and further that acceptance of the cross-border booking had to occur physically in the other district.

The Divisional Court held that there was nothing in the statutory scheme that prevented associated licensed operators sharing the same computerised system. Skyline and Mr Sokhi have long and unblemished records as operators and the judgment of the High Court confirms that they are responsible operators that have fully engaged with adopting the iCabbi system following deregulation. The Divisional Court agreed with the District Judge that the iCabbi system specifically provided for a lawful method of transferring bookings between licensed operators in different districts and provided a thorough record of such bookings that showed they were lawfully contracted.

Kevin Leigh and Daniel Oscroft are members of the Regulatory and Licensing Group at No5.