A COUNTY taxi driver put the lives of his passengers at risk by picking up fares despite being diagnosed with Covid-19.

Gordon Leadbetter accepted fares from pensioners including a 91-year-old woman, an 82-year-old man and care home workers after testing positive last December.

Leadbetter, 59, also ferried seriously ill passengers to and from the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh who were attending for dialysis treatment while failing to wear a protective mask.

The cabbie tested positive for coronavirus the day after his wife was diagnosed with the disease and had been rushed into hospital for urgent treatment.

Leadbetter, of Pinkie Terrace, Musselburgh, was caught out after a neighbour heard of his positive test result and phoned his employers to air their concerns.

He was suspended from the taxi company he worked for following a board meeting on December 26 last year and was subsequently arrested and charged by police two weeks later.

Leadbetter pleaded guilty to culpably and recklessly accepting vulnerable passengers into his taxi between December 17 and 26 last year after he had tested positive for the virus when he appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last month.

He was back in the dock for sentencing today (Tuesday), where Sheriff Chris Dickson said he had carried out “a very serious offence” and had put “a number of patients at risk”.

Leadbetter was spared a jail term and instead was placed on 12 months of supervision and told he must complete 200 hours of unpaid work.

He will also be electronically tagged and must stay within his home for the next eight months between 9pm and 5am each night.

Prosecutor Debbie King told the court that Leadbetter was a self-employed taxi driver and drove a seven-seater black Ford Transit Pro-Cab.

Ms King said there was “potential threat to the most vulnerable areas of society” while he continued to work and had accepted 52 jobs between being tested and being suspended.

The fiscal listed a number of passengers who had been put at risk, including a 91-year-old care home resident, a 71-year-old dialysis patient and a 61-year-old with a heart condition who had been shielding.

The taxi driver also accepted fares from an 82-year-old dialysis patient, several care home workers and a support worker who helped elderly and vulnerable people with dementia.

Leadbetter's taxi company received an anonymous tip-off stating that he was continuing to drive his cab despite having been told to self-isolate due to testing positive for Covid the week previously.

Solicitor Victoria Good said her client had worked as a taxi driver for 18 years and had been “struggling financially” in the run-up to Christmas.

Ms Good said that Leadbetter had displayed “no symptoms” and had “stupidly” decided to carry on working despite the positive test result.

Leadbetter admitted culpably and recklessly carrying on business as a taxi driver and permitting passengers to enter his taxi, including those he knew to be vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus, after testing positive for the virus and when he should have been self-isolating between December 17 and 26 last year.

The charge also stated Leadbetter exposed the passengers to immediate risk of health and exposed them to risk of heightened communication of transmission of the virus, all to the danger of their lives and health.