A TAXI driver has been convicted of dangerous driving involving an incident in which a passenger jumped from his cab and died.
Avtar Mander was originally charged with causing death by dangerous driving but that charge was dismissed by a judge before it came to trial.
However on Friday he stood trial at Luton Crown Court on the charge of dangerous driving before a jury who were never told the full tragic consequences of the night's events.
The Judge said Mander was not responsible for the death of 20-year-old Oliver Livings, from Langford, but said: "As a taxi driver there is a higher duty of care to your passengers which you ignored."
Mander, 40, of Letchworth, who had been a taxi driver for 14 years, was fined £500 and banned from driving for a year. He must also pay £2,500 costs.
Prosecutor Maurice Aston told the jury that in the early hours of August 5, 2006 five young men hired a cab after a night out in Hitchin to take them home to Langford. They negotiated a price of £30 with Mander.
He stopped at a social club where they wanted to be dropped off, but after three got out he had the impression he was not going to be paid and decided to drive the remaining two to a police station.
The seven-seater taxi had sliding doors and he drove off with the door in the open locked position. He called police en route and the tape of the call was played to the jury.
Mr Livings could be heard remonstrating with the driver.
The other remaining passenger, Elliott Owen, said he had not been aware of any intention not to pay the fare, although he had no money on him at the time.
"Oliver was telling the driver to calm down and that we would give him his money but then he jumped from the taxi. The taxi went faster. My initial reaction was shock. The driver did not say anything."
But he said the driver did calm down and pulled up a little further on when the door was closed.
Mander claimed he was acting under duress.
Geoffrey Birch, defending, said: "He was faced with an unexpected situation and in the heat of the moment made the decision to drive to the police station. He was putting the matter in the hands of the law and doing the right thing. However things then went very wrong.
"He either drove without checking the door was secure or without giving any thought to that matter.