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’24p taxi driver’ actually awarded £24 in compensation after helping to catch criminal



Exclusive By Hardeep Matharu

Click here to read on the Guardian website

A have-a-go taxi driver who slammed the "injustice" system after being informed he would get just 24p in compensation for helping to catch a criminal, was actually awarded £24 it has emerged.

Epsom cab driver Mark Salter contacted the Epsom Guardian in April after being informed by a Surrey police officer that he had been awarded the meagre sum after picking up five men outside Epsom station one evening last May.

When he dropped them off in New Malden, four ran off and one, Gary Smith, 24, of Chessington, verbally threatened Mr Salter before walking away without paying the £24 fare.

Mr Salter called the police and then followed Smith to a pub, allowing police to arrest the man for evading the taxi fare. Smith was later also arrested in connection with a robbery.

After spending the evening making a police statement, Mr Salter filled out a compensation form for loss of earnings and the unpaid taxi fare.

But having heard nothing from the police about Smith’s case, the 25-year-old contacted Surrey Police last month and was informed Smith had pleaded guilty to evading the taxi fare last May and that Mr Salter had been awarded 24p in compensation.

After weeks of enquiries as to whether the 24p was a clerical error, this newspaper was eventually informed by South East Surrey Magistrates’ Court that Mr Salter had actually been awarded £23.60 – which was due to be paid by June 14, 2012.

A spokesman for Surrey Police has now admitted it was their mistake but said it was an "isolated" error caused by "miscommunication".

He said: "Unfortunately a miscommunication led to a member of staff wrongly informing Mr Salter that he had only been rewarded 24p compensation by the courts.

"This was a human error and the member of staff has apologised for the mistake and the upset it caused to Mr Salter.

"We are looking to put procedures in place to ensure incidents of this nature do not happen again in the future."

But Mr Salter said he cannot understand how the mistake happened and it doesn’t change the way he feels.

He said: "My first question to the police officer was to double-check it.  He put it into his computer again and said ‘no, no, it’s 24p’.

"It changes nothing from my perspective.  I had a runner when I finished a job in Leatherhead the other night and I just closed the door, turned around and went straight back to Epsom.

"I was just added pressure.  If they can’t help each other out, how are they going to help me?"

Smith is to appear at Guildford Crown Court in August to stand trial for robbery.

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