Before the New South Wales government went and legalised ride-sharing service Uber in the state, one rogue man Russell Howarth, a hire car driver, took it upon himself to conduct citizen arrests on UberX drivers operating their services illegally in the state. In July 2015, Uber got an injunction against Howarth to prevent him conducting citizen arrests. Despite the change in NSW rules, the case is still ongoing. In a judgment last week, the NSW Supreme Court found that much of Howarth’s cross-claims no longer apply, and there are now “serious difficulties” with Howarth’s standing because he is “an undischarged bankrupt”. This is what Fairfax reported was related to a traffic incident outside the Ivy nightclub in Sydney several years ago.

Howarth was not there for the judgment last week. Justice Francois Kunc noted that the court waited a full hour for Howarth to arrive, and eventually he appeared in court over the mobile phone of one of his associates. Howarth told the court he was “very unwell” and would be likely going to hospital:

“The origins of his physical difficulties seem to be what he said was an assault which he suffered on Sunday night. He described his difficulties as ‘ongoing’, the significance of which I did not quite understand.”

The court rejected Howarth’s motion to send the case to mediation, and a fixed hearing date will be set this week, with Howarth also now saddled with paying some of Uber’s court costs. The New South Wales government is compensating taxi drivers $98 million for their licences — $20,000 per licence — funded by a $1 surcharge on ride share and taxi fares.

Peter Fray

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