Uber vs TfL Trial ‘Conflict of Interest’

Calls have been made for a retrial in the case of Uber vs Transport for London (TfL) after the husband of Emma Arbuthnot, the chief magistrate who heard the case, was found to have links with Uber.

Lady Arbuthnot has stepped down from hearing any cases relating to Uber after links between Lord Arbuthnot and the controversial company were discovered. The former Tory MP for North East Hampshire, was the director of SC Strategy Ltd, 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.

In December 2012, in a story that was not denied at the time by the Qatar Investment Authority and was picked up globally by other media outlets, the Wall Street Journal reported that the fund was one of the main investors to have participated in a $1.2bn financing round for Uber.

He is now listed as a senior consultant on the company’s website after stepping down as a director.

A spokesman for Lady Arbuthnot confirmed that she would not hear Uber-related cases in the future. “The chief magistrate had been due to hear a licensing appeal by Uber in Brighton at a date yet to be fixed,” the spokesman said.

“However, as soon as this link was pointed out to her, she assigned the case to a fellow judge. It is essential that judges not only are, but are seen to be, absolutely impartial.”

Lady Arbuthnot approved a probationary 15-month licence for Uber to once again operate in the capital in June after Transport for London had said it would not renew its operator license after its failure to report crimes in London.

Catriona Bogle from zoom.taxi 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.

Mick Rix, national officer with the GMB union which contested Uber’s London licence, said: “GMB is surprised by the suggested connection between magistrate Arbuthnot’s husband and Uber.”

“Any matter which may be perceived as a conflict of interest is required to be drawn to the attention of the parties involved in any litigation at the outset.”


4 simple packages – Plus a 2 week FREE trial

With Zoom there are no monthly fees and no hidden charges. You just pay for what you use, with a fixed cost per journey. For branded passenger apps and booking widget there will be a small customisation fee.