Black Cab Drivers Granted Judicial Review Over Uber London License

Uber’s rehabilitation after it saw its license taken away is in doubt after black cab drivers in London were granted a judicial review of the decision to grant the company a temporary operator license.

The High Court judge made the ruling over the alleged “bias” of Emma Arbuthnot, the senior magistrate of England, who made the decision in August.

Granting the application, Mr Justice Walker said Uber had “gravely misled the regulator and the court”.

Since the ruling, which angered black cab drivers and other private hire firms, it was revealed that Arbuthnot’s husband James, a former Tory MP for North East Hampshire, was the director of SC Strategy, which advised one of Uber’s largest investors, Qatar Investment Authority, until December 31 last year – three weeks after the start of the company’s appeal, revealed the Observer.

One of SC Strategy’s few known clients has been the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the giant sovereign wealth fund that invests billions around the world.

The judge said she had been unaware of the connection but nevertheless withdrew from a further Uber case she was due to hear over the decision not to permit the company an operator license in Brighton.

The counsel for the cab drivers, acting as ‘United Cabbies Group’, said Arbuthnot had not explained why she was qualified to hear the London case if she was not qualified to hear the Brighton case.

in his ruling, Justice Walker said the drivers’ arguments “merit consideration at a hearing. Uber had gravely misled the regulator and the court. The failure to make an express finding that it had indeed turned into an entity that was ‘fit and proper’ may, at least arguably, reflect an impermissible approach.”

Catriona Bogle from said the discovery “raised questions about the ruling by the court which should be completely free from any claims of bias.”

“Whilst Lady Arbuthnot has said she was unaware of the link these circumstances raise the possibility of the robustness of her decision and it is unsurprising, given the strength of feeling particularly in the industry because of Uber’s behaviour and the way it treats its drivers, that there are calls for the case to be reheard by a different judge.

“Any links are supposed to be highlighted at the beginning of a hearing, not weeks after a controversial decision was taken.

“As Thomas Jefferson said, Ignorance of the law is no excuse in any country. If it were the laws would lose their effect, because it can always be pretended.”

Arbuthnot made the decision that Transport for London had been right to refuse a license at the time since Uber had deceived both them and the High Court in a previous action. But she said that since then sufficient changes had been made and granted it a temporary 15 month license to allow it to substantiate the claims it had made during the case.

Griffiths said Arbuthnot was in no position to reprieve Uber “in anticipation of it becoming fit and proper” and said by granting the license before deciding whether it was ‘fit and proper’ at that time her reasoning was “unlawful” and “illogical”.

A judicial spokesman said: “It is essential that judges not only are, but are seen to be, absolutely impartial.”

Uber, which can operate while the case proceeds, declined to comment.

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