A TAXI driver has had a fine quashed after police issued him a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt which he is legally exempt from wearing...but only after the Echo stepped in.

John Busuittil, 50, spoke to the Echo about his frustration over being fined despite taxi drivers not being required by law to wear a seatbelt. He was prepared to fight and clear his name in court.

Mr Busuittil had just dropped off a passenger in Chichester Road, Southend, in the early hours of February 18 and made a U-turn to pick up someone else on the other side of the road when he was blocked by a police car.

The driver, of Stambridge Road, Rochford, recalled: “I was completely puzzled as to what I had done wrong. The officer got out of the car and read me the riot act about doing a U-turn.

“While he was doing this, another officer said ‘you haven’t got your seatbelt on’ and I told him I thought taxi drivers were exempt. I was really miffed because I know I was right.

"None of us wear a seatbelt and I have been doing this for 18 years.”

The government state licensed taxi drivers are exempt when plying for trade or carrying a passenger because of worries that a belt would make them more vulnerable to assault.

After enquiries were made by the Echo, Essex Police accepted the ticket had been incorrectly issued.

A spokesman said: “Following further investigation, we have established that, as a Hackney Carriage driver, the law states the driver of the vehicle has no legal obligation to wear a seat belt while working in the area in which he is licensed.

“The ticket has been cancelled.”

Mr Busuittil added: “Hats off to the Echo who got things sorted out. I’m relieved, but it’s frustrating because I knew I was right and it’s just been a total waste of time.”

Southend’s councillor for transport, Tony Cox, said: “I was stunned because it is basic policing.

"The level of understanding was quite concerning but I’m glad someone has seen sense and avoided a huge waste of public money.”