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Judge in Uber licence case not biased and did not fall into error

26/02/19

Today the Divisional Court (the Lord Chief Justice and Supperstone J) rejected a judicial review challenge brought by the United Cabbies Group (“UCG”) challenging the decision of the Chief Magistrate of England and Wales to grant Uber London Limited (“ULL”) a licence in June 2018.

The UCG argued that the Chief Magistrate’s judgment was flawed for two reasons. First, it was vitiated by bias. The Divisional Court rejected the assertion that the Chief Magistrate had a pecuniary interest in the outcome of the case, via her husband’s role as a consultant to the Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund, which itself owned shares in Uber. It also rejected the submission that the connections unearthed by the Claimant could sustain a claim of apparent bias. It concluded:

“The list of tenuous connections unearthed, no doubt as a result of deploying time and energy to internet searching, fall well short of evidence of links that would begin to give a fair-minded observer even pause for thought. It reminds one of the game of consequences or even the old song with the lyrics “I danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales”.

Second, the UCG argued that the Chief Magistrate had fallen into an error of law, because she had granted ULL a probationary licence: a form of licence that has no place in the statutory framework. The Divisional Court rejected that argument: on a fair reading of the judgment as a whole, the Chief Magistrate had not misdirected herself.

As a result, the 15 month licence – granted by the Chief Magistrate to ULL in June 2018 – will stand.

A copy of the judgment can be found here.

Martin Chamberlain QC and Tim Johnston appeared before the Divisional Court for the first interested party: Transport for London.