A TAXI driver who couldn't resist a quick smoke in his cab found himself in court - and a whooping £715 out of pocket.
Basildon magistrates heard on November 2 last year, a Council official spotted Alan Cross smoking in his taxi on the Grays railway station rank. He was warned he faced a fine or possible prosecution.
Later the same day, he was again seen smoking by five witnesses, the court was told. After that, the council suspended his taxi licence.
Cross, 47, failed to attend court, claiming he had not been notified and was still preparing the case for his defence.
He admits the first offence, but claims he was nowhere near the rank when officials claim the second offence was committed. He says he is the victim of mistaken identity.
In his absence, Cross was found guilty of smoking in a taxi - an offence against the 2006 Health Act - and failing to comply with the request of an officer.
He was fined £300 and ordered to pay costs of £400, plus a £15 victim surcharge.
He said: "Every lunchtime, when this is alleged to have happened, I'm not on the rank. I'm taking my wife to or from work, depending on her shift.
"Through my solicitor, I applied for an adjournment, but we didn't hear anything until the local newspaper rang to tell me what had happened in court. I'm stunned and angry. I have not had my day in court and I have been hit with a ridiculous fine."
A councilor responsible for community protection, said: "The council takes the protection of residents very seriously and is under an obligation to act against those who flout the law."