Edinburgh taxi driver faces losing licence after complaint from Balmoral Hotel

balmoral hotel
Several complaints were made regarding Mr Johnstone's parking outside the Balmoral Hotel. -Credit:Google maps

An Edinburgh cabbie is set to have his licence revoked by the council after being deemed "no longer fit and proper" to continue operating in the city.

After council officers investigated several complaints against John Johnstone, they recommended that the Licensing Sub-Committee make the decision to cancel his licence during next week's meeting.

The meeting's agenda states that several passengers have made official complaints against Mr Johnstone as well as instances of non-compliance with licence conditions also being investigated.

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Over the course of 12 months, the council say four complaints were received from members of the public in relation to Mr Johnstone's behaviour while undertaking licensed taxi driver work.

Three of these complaints alleged inappropriate parking outside the Balmoral Hotel. In addition, when the subject of a routine compliance check by enforcement officers, Mr Johnstone was unable to produce his taxi driver identity card and was dressed inappropriately, these both being breaches of his licence conditions.

In November 2020, concerns were also raised by Police Scotland on the basis of aggressive behaviour and repeated inappropriate parking outside the plush Balmoral Hotel in the city centre.

At the time, the committee decided to take no further action. In October 2021 the Committee considered a further request for suspension of licence from Police Scotland on the basis of disregard for the safety of other road users and repeated inappropriate parking outside the Balmoral Hotel by Mr Johnstone.

The committee issued Mr Johnstone with a final warning with respect to his future conduct.

On February 7, 2023, a routine compliance check on taxi and private hire vehicles within the city centre found Mr Johnstone parked inappropriately outside the Balmoral Hotel. Mr Johnstone was asked to produce his identify card, which he was unable to do.

Officers also noted that Mr Johnstone was not complying with the required standards of dress, in that he was wearing training shoes.

On June 9, 2023, the Licensing Service received a complaint from a Balmoral Hotel concierge which alleged that while inappropriately parked outside the hotel Mr Johnstone had displayed aggressive behaviour while acting as a taxi driver. This complaint was put to Mr Johnstone, and he replied by email on June 13, 2023, to deny the allegation.

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On June 13, 2023, a member of the public contacted the Licensing Service regarding concerns about a journey made in a licensed taxi being driven by Mr Johnstone. The basis of the complaint was that Mr Johnstone had initially failed to deliver the passenger to her destination - stopping at Lawnmarket instead of the Castle Esplanade - and had used inappropriate language when she insisted on being taken closer to the specified destination.

On February 6, 2024, a member of the public contacted the Licensing Service alleging that Mr Johnstone had displayed poor driving behaviour while inappropriately parked outside the Balmoral Hotel while acting as a taxi driver. This complaint was put to Mr Johnstone, and he replied by email on February 8, 2023, to deny the allegations.

The fourth complaint was made just weeks later, on February 18, when a concierge at the Balmoral Hotel yet again raised concerns about Mr Johnstone's conduct while inappropriately parked outside the premises. The complaint alleged poor driving behaviour by the driver and it was once again denied by Mr Johnstone.

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The report's recommendation states: "The Directorate is of the view that a hearing under paragraph 11 of the 1982 Act is required given that there are now four separate complaints about Mr Johnstone’s conduct in relation to driving behaviour and passengers, and the apparent breach of licence condition detected during a routine compliance check.

"It is noted that previous corrective advice does not appear to have worked. It is recommended that the licence is suspended on the grounds that Mr Johnstone is no longer a fit and proper person to be the holder of the licence and/or that a condition of licence has been breached."