‘No’ to licence for cab driver

Gazette columnist Keith Mercer
Gazette columnist Keith Mercer
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A former professional footballer was involved in inappropriate conversation with 15-year-olds who he was taking to school.

Keith Mercer, 56, who played as a striker for Blackpool and Watford, lost his appeal against a decision to withdraw his taxi driver’s licence.

Mercer of Arundel Drive, Poulton, drove for a company which had a contract to take children to and from schools.

Mercer’s licence was withdrawn following a complaint about his conduct.

It was said that during one trip to St Annes he showed three 15-year-old boys an inappropriate mobile phone message.

He then had a conversation with the young passengers concerning a sexual practice.

Trevor Colebourne, who represented Wyre Council, the taxi licensing authority, said one of the boys mentioned what had happened to his parents who then complained to the school headteacher.

This resulted in a formal complaint to the taxi company.

Mr Colebourne said drivers of the company had to undergo the highest level of criminal records scrutiny before being allowed to carry unaccompanied youngsters.

He said some of the youngsters had learning difficulties which made them vulnerable.

Mr Colebourne added: “The nub of this case is Mr Mercer is not a fit and proper person to be driving young boys around and discussing such topics.”

Representing himself Mercer said he had been a taxi driver for 16 years after his football career ended.

He told the magistrates: “I am being picked on by Wyre Council. I did not show the boys anything on my mobile phone. However I do admit sharing a joke with them.”

“You cannot have boys of this age in your cab for hours at a time without talking to them.”

“I feel I am being persecuted for one error – a joke.

“These boys use far worse language than I do.”

He added: “All I want to do is clear my name.”

Magistrates ordered Mercer to pay £400 costs.