Cabbie who altered numberplate to avoid paying 'extortionate' airport fees avoids jail
A taxi driver who altered his car's numberplate to avoid paying almost £100 in "extortionate" fees at Belfast International Airport has been handed a suspended sentence.
Neil Diver (41) changed the 'DRZ' part of his registration to read 'BRZ' to get around having to pay the full charge for waiting in the drop-off zone to pick up passengers as their flights arrived.
Diver, of Glen Road, Ballyclare, was sentenced to two months in jail suspended for two years at Antrim Magistrates yesterday.
He was sentenced for 12 counts of fraud, by causing a loss to Q-Park between June 23 and July 18 last year.
He was also ordered to pay back the estimated £98 he saved himself. A prosecutor said Diver, in court wearing a Value Cabs coat, altered his numberplate to avoid making full payments, which started off at £1 and went up the longer the driver stayed in the drop-off zone.
A prosecutor said Diver admitted the fraud because of the "extortionate rates" demanded to park in the drop-off zone.
Defence barrister Neil Moore said that despite working full-time as a taxi driver, Diver had to pay off debts.
He added that Diver had been "very frank and open" about what he did. "He said he didn't know when flights were coming in and if there was a delay he had to pay," the barrister said.
Mr Moore said Diver was always going to be caught as he was at the Aldergrove airport on a regular basis.
He said that in the light of the conviction Diver could lose his job if his taxi licence is not renewed.
District Judge Alan White said Diver should have paid the parking fees like every other taxi driver. He added that it amounted to "persistent fraud over a period of time".
As well as the suspended two-month jail term for the fraud offences, Diver was fined £50 and given three penalty points for driving carelessly.
The court heard that Diver's vehicle had mounted the kerb to get past traffic in the drop-off zone on June 25, 2014.