Two minicab drivers prosecuted for refusing guide dog in their private hire cars

Two minicab drivers from Bristol have been prosecuted for refusing to allow a registered blind man to take his guide dog in their cars.

Andrew Goddard of Badgers Walk, Brislington, booked a car to take him and his guide dog, Sammy, to a social event at the Louisiana pub in the city centre.

But two drivers refused to take him to the event in their private hire cars before he was eventually taken to the venue by a third driver.

As a result, Mr Goddard arrived very late for the event, and both he and Sammy got soaking wet.

The incident led the city council’s licensing enforcement team to prosecute the drivers for refusing to convey an assistance dog under the 2010 Equalities Act.

Mr Goddard hopes that by bringing this case to court, it will prevent other people from having to go through the same ordeal.

He said: “I got Sammy in May last year, and he has given me the confidence to go out to social events on my own.

“I don’t have any problem with my normal taxi firm, who are always happy to take my dog, and if it hadn’t have been raining, I would have probably got the bus.

“I am pleased that both drivers were prosecuted, and I hope that by highlighting this issue other people will not have to suffer.”

The first driver, Khader Ahmed Sharif Abdi admitted the charge before Bristol magistrates and was given a conditional discharge, and ordered to pay a contribution to the prosecution costs.

The second driver, Sheikh Omar Mohamed, was found guilty by Bristol magistrates and fined nearly £350.

Assistant Mayor Gus Hoyt said: “Taxis and Private Hire vehicles form an integral part of the transport system in Bristol and are often relied upon by people suffering from visual impairment.

“It is simply not acceptable that drivers don’t comply with their legal obligations by refusing to carry assistance dogs. We are delighted that we have brought these successful convictions, and we hope it sends out a strong message that this is simply not acceptable.”

Alun Gwernan-Jones, regional manager for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, welcomed the tough stance from the licensing department.

He said: “Guide Dog Owners depend on their dogs for independence, and they, and any other assistance dog users, need to have confidence that no Bristol taxis will refuse them access.”

Read more: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/

Wheelchair user ‘turned away’ by FIVE taxi drivers at Brighton railway station

Brighton railway station

DISABLED access to taxis at Brighton Railway Station has been criticised after a wheelchair user was turned away from five independent cabs.

It is not known why the unnamed wheelchair user was turned away and the cab drivers have not been identified.

Brighton and Hove City Council said it has requested station CCTV footage from the incident two weeks ago in a bid to find the drivers, who were not from any of the city’s well-known firms.

But taxi company bosses have since criticised both Southern and Brighton and Hove City Council for the current taxi-rank set-up inside and outside the station – despite a £5.5 million revamp.

John Streeter, of Streamline Taxis, said drivers were forced to pick up wheelchair users in Surrey Street because a piece of problematic kerb outside the Ibis hotel.

He said: “I heard about what happened with the wheelchair user and the five private cabs and let me tell you, if they were our drivers they would have been kicked out straight away.

“It’s a nightmare up there at the moment. That piece of kerb needs sorting out and inside the station.

“Southern did not consult any taxi firms in the city about disability access after its revamp this year.

“They gave no attention to the disabled community. We also wanted railings at the rank to stop people walking in front of cars but it never happened.”

A spokesman from Southern said cab firms were not consulted over its Brighton station revamp because the redevelopment work did not include the taxi rank – and it had not been asked by the council for CCTV.

Councillor Stephanie Powell, councillor champion for disabilities, said she is meeting with Southern bosses next week.

She said: “I was deeply disturbed to hear about an incident involving a disabled person at Brighton station and it highlighted the importance of accessibility at this important transport hub.

“I have since requested a meeting with the manager at the station to find out more about their policies and discuss how we can make it a more accessible for those with disabilities.”

source: http://www.theargus.co.uk/

Ethsham Ghafoor taxi shooting: £20,000 reward offered

Police said Shami Ghafoor was involved in a number of disputes and had voiced concerns about his safety

A reward of up to £20,000 has been offered ahead of the 20th anniversary of a taxi driver’s “targeted” shooting.

Ethsham Ghafoor, 26, was killed in the early hours of 22 November 1994 while sitting in his vehicle in Lambley Lane, Gedling, Nottinghamshire.

Police said they were open-minded as to the motive but believed Mr Ghafoor was being followed before his death.

His sister Aisha said the family had gone through “20 years of pain” made worse by not knowing why he died.

New CCTV and pictures have been released of Mr Ghafoor, who was known to his friends as Shami, working in the hours before the shooting.

Ethsham Ghafoor murder timeline

00:15 – Fills up with petrol at Hilltop Service Station in Mapperley Plains (pictured)

About 00:15 – Buys water from another petrol station in Huntingdon Street (police unsure whether this was before or after petrol stop)

02:00 - Taxi seen driving on Colwick Loop Road

02:40 – Another taxi driver sees him in Carlton Square with three passengers

03:00-03:30 – Witnesses see his car parked in the Lambley Lane car park

03:30 – Witness describes hearing a shot

04:30 – Milkman finds him dead in his taxi

line

He had been shot twice, once in the head. The handgun used has never been traced.

His sister Aisha said: “He was our rock. We lost someone who was so dear to us. He would light the room and being without him is worse because of not knowing what happened.

“We have had 20 years of pain, surely we deserve some closure.”

The original inquiry found he had told friends and family he thought he was being followed and he had been assaulted in the weeks before his death.

Ethsham Ghafoor’s distinctive black and white cab was found in car park next to playing fields

Eight arrests were made soon after, with three more in subsequent years, but no convictions were secured.

Det Ch Insp Tony Heydon, from Nottinghamshire Police, said: “Ethsham Ghafoor was targeted. Somebody hunted him down and they have shot him in such a way that they absolutely intended to kill him.

“He was having some disputes at the time of his death, he was probably being followed, but do we have someone specific in mind? No we don’t.

“So we want to know – why was he shot?

“We want to hear from people who perhaps saw him on the night, saw his car parked. But, in addition to that, people who might have heard, credibly, what happened.”

As part of the renewed investigation uniformed officers will be handing out leaflets particularly at mosques and taxi ranks and at shops in the area.

A team of about 30 detectives is reviewing evidence and re-interviewing witnesses.

source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/

 

Time Magazine reports: A Historical Argument Against Uber: Taxi Regulations Are There for a Reason

Yellow cabs waiting in line at LaGuardia Airport, New York City, in March of 1974

The author of a cultural history of the NYC taxi — a former cabbie himself — explains why he believes oversight is necessary

New York taxis used to have a reputation for smelly cars, ripped seats and eccentric drivers. Today, New York cabs are nearly all clean and well-maintained. Drivers don’t usually say much unprompted. The cabs feel safe. In other words, they’re boring. And maybe that’s a good thing, because they’re vying against a polished new competitor.

Uber, the ride-sharing app, has grown explosively in the five years since its inception, challenging established taxi services, expanding its annual revenue to a projected $10 billion by the end of next year and attracting drivers away from its competitors. Uber drivers get 80% of a fare, and the company only takes a 20% cut. Uber’s cars are mostly slick, clean and easy to hail via the company’s app.

But a big reason Uber has grown so quickly is that it’s not regulated the same way that traditional taxi services are. Uber proponents say it’s about time for monopolistic, overregulated city cab services to be broken up. Riders deserve options, they say, and better pricing, and more nimble technology. Still, the company is no stranger to controversy, most recently over reports of executives abusing the company’s ability to track riders.

And, says one taxi expert, history shows that the larger reason to be concerned about Uber is that those regulations were established for a good reason.

Graham Hodges is the author of Taxi! A Cultural History of the New York City Cabdriver and a professor at Colgate University — and a former cabbie himself, who patrolled New York’s dangerous streets in the early 1970s for a fare. Hodges is suspicious of upstarts like Uber and says that the cab industry needs to be regulated.

Hodges’ argument? Taxis are pretty much a public utility. Like subway and bus systems, the electric grid or the sewage system, taxis provide an invaluable service to cities like New York, and the government should play an important role in regulating them. They shouldn’t be, Hodges argues, fair game for a private corporation like Uber to take over and control, any more than an inner-city bus service should be privatized.

Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty of taxi rules, what do passengers get out of cab regulation? Regular taxi maintenance, says Hodges, which taxi commissions like New York’s require. “You want to know you’re getting in a safe cab that’s been checked recently,” he explains. “They’re taking a pounding every day.” Knowing your fare is fixed to a predictable formula is important, too, says Hodges. (Uber does that, though the company’s surge pricing at peak hours can really up the cost.) And you want to know that your driver has had a background check, which established taxi services usually require, so that you can be less afraid of being attacked with a hammer, abducted or led on a high-speed chase, as has allegedly happened on some Uber trips.

Regulations have been around for a long time, Hodges says: “Taxi regulations developed out of livery and hansom-cab regulations from the 19th century. They’re a necessary part of urban transportation. They’ve been that way since the metropolitization of cities in the 1850s. And those in turn are based on a long-term precedent in Europe and other parts of the world. From hard-earned experience, those regulations ensure fairness and safety.”

In the 1970s, when Hodges drove, those regulations ensured that a driver made a decent living, and could comfortably choose his or her own hours. (“I made $75 the first night I was out,” he says. “I felt fantastic.”) The golden days of cab driving, Hodges continues, were even earlier, in the ’50s and ’60s. Think sometime before seedy New York full of troubled men like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver (1976), and more like the omnipresent, wise-seeming driver of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).

“Back then, drivers stayed on for a long time,” says Hodges. “They were beloved. They were culturally familiar. That’s where you get the classic cabbie and someone who was an encyclopedia of the city. Those are guys who dedicated their lives to the job and owned their taxis. They had a vested interest in a clean, well-managed auto that lasted a long time.”

Today, Uber drivers do enjoy some of those benefits. Though they’re hardly known for an encyclopedic knowledge of the cities they drive, or as cultural touchstones, they own their own cabs and have a lot at stake in driving. What’s more, they get a large cut of each fare and have a lot of freedom. And regulation doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to: even after the Taxi and Limousine Commission started more closely regulating taxi drivers in the 1970s, riders were often in for a surprise. Taxis were rusty tin-bins and drivers were erratic.

In 1976, TIME offered a sardonic view of the New York cab ride:

“A taxi ride is the chief means by which New York City tests the mettle of its people. A driver, for example, is chosen for his ability to abuse the passenger in extremely colorful language, the absence of any impulse to help little crippled old ladies into the cab, ignorance of any landmark destination, an uncanny facility for shooting headlong into the most heavily trafficked streets in the city, a foot whose weight on the accelerator is exceeded only by its spine-snapping authority in applying the brakes. Extra marks are awarded the driver who traverses the most potholes in any trip; these are charted for him by the New York City Department of Craters, whose job it is to perforate perfectly good roadways into moonscapes.

The taxi machines are selected with equally rigorous care. Most are not acceptable until they have been driven for 200,000 miles in Morocco. After that, dealer preparation calls for denting the body, littering the passenger compartment with refuse, removing the shock absorbers, sliding the front seat back as far as it will go, and installing a claustrophobic bulletproof shield between driver and passenger—whose single aperture is [edited by admin] contrived to pass only money forward and cigar smoke back. All this is designed to induce in the customer a paralytic yoga position: fists clenched into the white-knuckles mode, knees to the chin, eyes glazed or glued shut, bones a-rattle, teeth a-grit. To a lesser extent, the same conditions prevail in other taxi-ridden U.S. communities.

In the end, Hodges says, cabbies and passengers have always wanted the same things — “We don’t want to have hyper competition, we don’t want reckless driving, we don’t want drivers about whom we don’t know very much,” he says — and, whether or not it always works perfectly, he believes that history has shown that regulation is the best way to get there.

source: http://time.com/

TAXI ROW: ‘Loophole’ could still see convicted sex offenders driving taxis in Milton Keynes

An internal audit report into the taxi licence scandal has been published by Milton Keynes Council

THERE is still a possibility that convicted sex offenders could drive city cabs – despite a report investigating the taxi licensing scandal finally being published.

On Monday, Milton Keynes Council released its internal audit report into the debacle, which saw a convicted rapist handed licences for private hire and hackney carriage vehicles.

The report’s release was swiftly followed by the resignation of Subhan Shafiq – the former mayor who personally vouched for Nadeem Ahmed Kiani, 44, an ex-Skyline driver who was jailed for eight years in 1994.

Mr Shafiq bowed to the demands of the public by penning his resignation as a councillor in an exclusive letter to MKWeb.

But faults have also been found with the findings of the report.

Despite enhanced DBS checks on drivers and extra training for councillors on the regulatory sub-committee – which grants taxi licences – a blanket ban on anyone ever convicted of a sexual offence being granted a licence has not been agreed.

Although those currently on the Sex Offenders’ Register should not be granted a licence, it means anyone with a conviction for a sexual offence who had served their sentence before the register came into effect in 1997 – or has since come off it – could still slip through the net. Kiani himself managed to get a licence, despite being listed on the register.

The report states that the existing policy is ‘considered sufficient to deal with all eventualities to safeguard the public’.

Council leader Pete Marland said a blanket ban on all sex offenders had been considered, but councillors were advised against it by officers.

He said: “There has to be some discretion. If a 17-year-old is convicted for relations with a 16-year-old they go on to marry, that might not be balanced. If it was a violent offence they would be extremely unlikely to get a licence, but if there is discretion you can never say never.”

He added the report would be reviewed every three months.

Liberal Democrat leader Douglas McCall said: “There is still a potential loophole. The public’s view is that all sex offenders should be excluded.”

Read more: http://www.mkweb.co.uk/

Nov 07

Letter to Baroness Kramer from the Stakeholders Group

logoGMB_logoUnitelogologontalogo1.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baroness Kramer
Cc’d
Ministers, MP’s, Lords
Suzy Lamplugh Trust, Police Commissioners, ACPO

 

Dear Minister,

 

Re: Deregulation Bill “Taxi & Private Hire” Clauses

 

On behalf of the members of the nationally acknowledged Stakeholders Group, the Meeting of Minds, we would like to thank the Minister and all those involved with the removal of clause 10 of the Bill due to the obvious safety issues which became apparent during the progress of the Deregulation Bill. However, we do have to say that we still have the same level of concern with regard to the remaining clause 12 of the Bill.

We note that the Local Government Association (LGA) has put forward to the House of Lords, for the noble Lords’ consideration, a number of additional clauses to the Deregulation Bill. These clauses have been directly taken from the legislative proposals drafted by the Law Commission (LC). These proposals arose from some three years of detailed consultation and investigation of taxi and private hire matters, unlike clauses 10 to 12 of the Deregulation Bill which were not derived from effective and full consultation. Copies of these proposed additional clauses are attached.

We bring these matters to your attention because the Commission clearly recognised that there were inherent dangers in some of their proposals, and most sensibly, in drafting the Commission’s Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles Bill in May 2014, added the attached clauses to ensure that the proposed changes could be brought in safely. In the absence of these safeguards the safety of the public could well be severely compromised. Clearly the possible effects of implementing clause 12 demonstrate the vital need for additional protective measures to be included to ensure safety whenever resultant legislation passes through Parliament.

As a major Stakeholder Group in the industry we wish to publically record our opposition to clause 12 being taken forward in its present form by a responsible Government. We believe unanimously that the additional public safety clauses are essential if clause 12 is to be enacted without serious risk to the public at large.

In the alternative and, given the time left to complete the Deregulation Bill, it would perhaps be much more prudent in the interests of the travelling public to withdraw clause 12 until such time as the Law Commission’s full Bill can be brought forward in legislation. We believe that the level of concern about public safety which led to the removal of clause 10 is equally applicable to the current clause 12.

The reason clause 10 was dropped was because the Government failed to publish an Impact Assessment until 8 months after the reforms were proposed The taxi and private hire vehicle (minicab) reforms were added to the Deregulation Bill in March 2014. But the Government didn’t publish an impact assessment on their rushed and risky reforms until Labour asked for one on the 1 October 2014. It confirmed that the reform ‘could lead to an increase in illegal use of licensed vehicles.’

Clause 12 “Allowing private hire operators to sub-contract bookings to operators licensed in a different district”’ is no different to clause 10 because the control of booking a private hire operator would be lost and therefore the customer could be totally placed in the hands of a stranger. Also by being able to pass jobs from one operator to another, the role of the local licensing enforcement would become impossible because currently only the licensing officers from a licensing authority area have the power to take enforcement action against their licensed vehicles and drivers.

We therefore formally and publicly request that the Minister acknowledges these concerns and withdraws the current clause 12.

Yours faithfully,

 

Representatives of each stakeholder group

Nov 21

Two minicab drivers prosecuted for refusing guide dog in their private hire cars

Two minicab drivers from Bristol have been prosecuted for refusing to allow a registered blind man to take his guide dog in their cars.

Andrew Goddard of Badgers Walk, Brislington, booked a car to take him and his guide dog, Sammy, to a social event at the Louisiana pub in the city centre.

But two drivers refused to take him to the event in their private hire cars before he was eventually taken to the venue by a third driver.

As a result, Mr Goddard arrived very late for the event, and both he and Sammy got soaking wet.

The incident led the city council’s licensing enforcement team to prosecute the drivers for refusing to convey an assistance dog under the 2010 Equalities Act.

Mr Goddard hopes that by bringing this case to court, it will prevent other people from having to go through the same ordeal.

He said: “I got Sammy in May last year, and he has given me the confidence to go out to social events on my own.

“I don’t have any problem with my normal taxi firm, who are always happy to take my dog, and if it hadn’t have been raining, I would have probably got the bus.

“I am pleased that both drivers were prosecuted, and I hope that by highlighting this issue other people will not have to suffer.”

The first driver, Khader Ahmed Sharif Abdi admitted the charge before Bristol magistrates and was given a conditional discharge, and ordered to pay a contribution to the prosecution costs.

The second driver, Sheikh Omar Mohamed, was found guilty by Bristol magistrates and fined nearly £350.

Assistant Mayor Gus Hoyt said: “Taxis and Private Hire vehicles form an integral part of the transport system in Bristol and are often relied upon by people suffering from visual impairment.

“It is simply not acceptable that drivers don’t comply with their legal obligations by refusing to carry assistance dogs. We are delighted that we have brought these successful convictions, and we hope it sends out a strong message that this is simply not acceptable.”

Alun Gwernan-Jones, regional manager for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, welcomed the tough stance from the licensing department.

He said: “Guide Dog Owners depend on their dogs for independence, and they, and any other assistance dog users, need to have confidence that no Bristol taxis will refuse them access.”

Read more: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/

Nov 21

Wheelchair user ‘turned away’ by FIVE taxi drivers at Brighton railway station

Brighton railway station

DISABLED access to taxis at Brighton Railway Station has been criticised after a wheelchair user was turned away from five independent cabs.

It is not known why the unnamed wheelchair user was turned away and the cab drivers have not been identified.

Brighton and Hove City Council said it has requested station CCTV footage from the incident two weeks ago in a bid to find the drivers, who were not from any of the city’s well-known firms.

But taxi company bosses have since criticised both Southern and Brighton and Hove City Council for the current taxi-rank set-up inside and outside the station – despite a £5.5 million revamp.

John Streeter, of Streamline Taxis, said drivers were forced to pick up wheelchair users in Surrey Street because a piece of problematic kerb outside the Ibis hotel.

He said: “I heard about what happened with the wheelchair user and the five private cabs and let me tell you, if they were our drivers they would have been kicked out straight away.

“It’s a nightmare up there at the moment. That piece of kerb needs sorting out and inside the station.

“Southern did not consult any taxi firms in the city about disability access after its revamp this year.

“They gave no attention to the disabled community. We also wanted railings at the rank to stop people walking in front of cars but it never happened.”

A spokesman from Southern said cab firms were not consulted over its Brighton station revamp because the redevelopment work did not include the taxi rank – and it had not been asked by the council for CCTV.

Councillor Stephanie Powell, councillor champion for disabilities, said she is meeting with Southern bosses next week.

She said: “I was deeply disturbed to hear about an incident involving a disabled person at Brighton station and it highlighted the importance of accessibility at this important transport hub.

“I have since requested a meeting with the manager at the station to find out more about their policies and discuss how we can make it a more accessible for those with disabilities.”

source: http://www.theargus.co.uk/

Nov 20

Ethsham Ghafoor taxi shooting: £20,000 reward offered

Police said Shami Ghafoor was involved in a number of disputes and had voiced concerns about his safety

A reward of up to £20,000 has been offered ahead of the 20th anniversary of a taxi driver’s “targeted” shooting.

Ethsham Ghafoor, 26, was killed in the early hours of 22 November 1994 while sitting in his vehicle in Lambley Lane, Gedling, Nottinghamshire.

Police said they were open-minded as to the motive but believed Mr Ghafoor was being followed before his death.

His sister Aisha said the family had gone through “20 years of pain” made worse by not knowing why he died.

New CCTV and pictures have been released of Mr Ghafoor, who was known to his friends as Shami, working in the hours before the shooting.

Ethsham Ghafoor murder timeline

00:15 – Fills up with petrol at Hilltop Service Station in Mapperley Plains (pictured)

About 00:15 – Buys water from another petrol station in Huntingdon Street (police unsure whether this was before or after petrol stop)

02:00 - Taxi seen driving on Colwick Loop Road

02:40 – Another taxi driver sees him in Carlton Square with three passengers

03:00-03:30 – Witnesses see his car parked in the Lambley Lane car park

03:30 – Witness describes hearing a shot

04:30 – Milkman finds him dead in his taxi

line

He had been shot twice, once in the head. The handgun used has never been traced.

His sister Aisha said: “He was our rock. We lost someone who was so dear to us. He would light the room and being without him is worse because of not knowing what happened.

“We have had 20 years of pain, surely we deserve some closure.”

The original inquiry found he had told friends and family he thought he was being followed and he had been assaulted in the weeks before his death.

Ethsham Ghafoor’s distinctive black and white cab was found in car park next to playing fields

Eight arrests were made soon after, with three more in subsequent years, but no convictions were secured.

Det Ch Insp Tony Heydon, from Nottinghamshire Police, said: “Ethsham Ghafoor was targeted. Somebody hunted him down and they have shot him in such a way that they absolutely intended to kill him.

“He was having some disputes at the time of his death, he was probably being followed, but do we have someone specific in mind? No we don’t.

“So we want to know – why was he shot?

“We want to hear from people who perhaps saw him on the night, saw his car parked. But, in addition to that, people who might have heard, credibly, what happened.”

As part of the renewed investigation uniformed officers will be handing out leaflets particularly at mosques and taxi ranks and at shops in the area.

A team of about 30 detectives is reviewing evidence and re-interviewing witnesses.

source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/

 

Nov 19

Time Magazine reports: A Historical Argument Against Uber: Taxi Regulations Are There for a Reason

Yellow cabs waiting in line at LaGuardia Airport, New York City, in March of 1974

The author of a cultural history of the NYC taxi — a former cabbie himself — explains why he believes oversight is necessary

New York taxis used to have a reputation for smelly cars, ripped seats and eccentric drivers. Today, New York cabs are nearly all clean and well-maintained. Drivers don’t usually say much unprompted. The cabs feel safe. In other words, they’re boring. And maybe that’s a good thing, because they’re vying against a polished new competitor.

Uber, the ride-sharing app, has grown explosively in the five years since its inception, challenging established taxi services, expanding its annual revenue to a projected $10 billion by the end of next year and attracting drivers away from its competitors. Uber drivers get 80% of a fare, and the company only takes a 20% cut. Uber’s cars are mostly slick, clean and easy to hail via the company’s app.

But a big reason Uber has grown so quickly is that it’s not regulated the same way that traditional taxi services are. Uber proponents say it’s about time for monopolistic, overregulated city cab services to be broken up. Riders deserve options, they say, and better pricing, and more nimble technology. Still, the company is no stranger to controversy, most recently over reports of executives abusing the company’s ability to track riders.

And, says one taxi expert, history shows that the larger reason to be concerned about Uber is that those regulations were established for a good reason.

Graham Hodges is the author of Taxi! A Cultural History of the New York City Cabdriver and a professor at Colgate University — and a former cabbie himself, who patrolled New York’s dangerous streets in the early 1970s for a fare. Hodges is suspicious of upstarts like Uber and says that the cab industry needs to be regulated.

Hodges’ argument? Taxis are pretty much a public utility. Like subway and bus systems, the electric grid or the sewage system, taxis provide an invaluable service to cities like New York, and the government should play an important role in regulating them. They shouldn’t be, Hodges argues, fair game for a private corporation like Uber to take over and control, any more than an inner-city bus service should be privatized.

Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty of taxi rules, what do passengers get out of cab regulation? Regular taxi maintenance, says Hodges, which taxi commissions like New York’s require. “You want to know you’re getting in a safe cab that’s been checked recently,” he explains. “They’re taking a pounding every day.” Knowing your fare is fixed to a predictable formula is important, too, says Hodges. (Uber does that, though the company’s surge pricing at peak hours can really up the cost.) And you want to know that your driver has had a background check, which established taxi services usually require, so that you can be less afraid of being attacked with a hammer, abducted or led on a high-speed chase, as has allegedly happened on some Uber trips.

Regulations have been around for a long time, Hodges says: “Taxi regulations developed out of livery and hansom-cab regulations from the 19th century. They’re a necessary part of urban transportation. They’ve been that way since the metropolitization of cities in the 1850s. And those in turn are based on a long-term precedent in Europe and other parts of the world. From hard-earned experience, those regulations ensure fairness and safety.”

In the 1970s, when Hodges drove, those regulations ensured that a driver made a decent living, and could comfortably choose his or her own hours. (“I made $75 the first night I was out,” he says. “I felt fantastic.”) The golden days of cab driving, Hodges continues, were even earlier, in the ’50s and ’60s. Think sometime before seedy New York full of troubled men like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver (1976), and more like the omnipresent, wise-seeming driver of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).

“Back then, drivers stayed on for a long time,” says Hodges. “They were beloved. They were culturally familiar. That’s where you get the classic cabbie and someone who was an encyclopedia of the city. Those are guys who dedicated their lives to the job and owned their taxis. They had a vested interest in a clean, well-managed auto that lasted a long time.”

Today, Uber drivers do enjoy some of those benefits. Though they’re hardly known for an encyclopedic knowledge of the cities they drive, or as cultural touchstones, they own their own cabs and have a lot at stake in driving. What’s more, they get a large cut of each fare and have a lot of freedom. And regulation doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to: even after the Taxi and Limousine Commission started more closely regulating taxi drivers in the 1970s, riders were often in for a surprise. Taxis were rusty tin-bins and drivers were erratic.

In 1976, TIME offered a sardonic view of the New York cab ride:

“A taxi ride is the chief means by which New York City tests the mettle of its people. A driver, for example, is chosen for his ability to abuse the passenger in extremely colorful language, the absence of any impulse to help little crippled old ladies into the cab, ignorance of any landmark destination, an uncanny facility for shooting headlong into the most heavily trafficked streets in the city, a foot whose weight on the accelerator is exceeded only by its spine-snapping authority in applying the brakes. Extra marks are awarded the driver who traverses the most potholes in any trip; these are charted for him by the New York City Department of Craters, whose job it is to perforate perfectly good roadways into moonscapes.

The taxi machines are selected with equally rigorous care. Most are not acceptable until they have been driven for 200,000 miles in Morocco. After that, dealer preparation calls for denting the body, littering the passenger compartment with refuse, removing the shock absorbers, sliding the front seat back as far as it will go, and installing a claustrophobic bulletproof shield between driver and passenger—whose single aperture is [edited by admin] contrived to pass only money forward and cigar smoke back. All this is designed to induce in the customer a paralytic yoga position: fists clenched into the white-knuckles mode, knees to the chin, eyes glazed or glued shut, bones a-rattle, teeth a-grit. To a lesser extent, the same conditions prevail in other taxi-ridden U.S. communities.

In the end, Hodges says, cabbies and passengers have always wanted the same things — “We don’t want to have hyper competition, we don’t want reckless driving, we don’t want drivers about whom we don’t know very much,” he says — and, whether or not it always works perfectly, he believes that history has shown that regulation is the best way to get there.

source: http://time.com/

Nov 19

TAXI ROW: ‘Loophole’ could still see convicted sex offenders driving taxis in Milton Keynes

An internal audit report into the taxi licence scandal has been published by Milton Keynes Council

THERE is still a possibility that convicted sex offenders could drive city cabs – despite a report investigating the taxi licensing scandal finally being published.

On Monday, Milton Keynes Council released its internal audit report into the debacle, which saw a convicted rapist handed licences for private hire and hackney carriage vehicles.

The report’s release was swiftly followed by the resignation of Subhan Shafiq – the former mayor who personally vouched for Nadeem Ahmed Kiani, 44, an ex-Skyline driver who was jailed for eight years in 1994.

Mr Shafiq bowed to the demands of the public by penning his resignation as a councillor in an exclusive letter to MKWeb.

But faults have also been found with the findings of the report.

Despite enhanced DBS checks on drivers and extra training for councillors on the regulatory sub-committee – which grants taxi licences – a blanket ban on anyone ever convicted of a sexual offence being granted a licence has not been agreed.

Although those currently on the Sex Offenders’ Register should not be granted a licence, it means anyone with a conviction for a sexual offence who had served their sentence before the register came into effect in 1997 – or has since come off it – could still slip through the net. Kiani himself managed to get a licence, despite being listed on the register.

The report states that the existing policy is ‘considered sufficient to deal with all eventualities to safeguard the public’.

Council leader Pete Marland said a blanket ban on all sex offenders had been considered, but councillors were advised against it by officers.

He said: “There has to be some discretion. If a 17-year-old is convicted for relations with a 16-year-old they go on to marry, that might not be balanced. If it was a violent offence they would be extremely unlikely to get a licence, but if there is discretion you can never say never.”

He added the report would be reviewed every three months.

Liberal Democrat leader Douglas McCall said: “There is still a potential loophole. The public’s view is that all sex offenders should be excluded.”

Read more: http://www.mkweb.co.uk/

Nov 19

Wellingborough cab driver prosecuted after overcharging a customer

Mags court

A Wellingborough cab driver has been prosecuted after overcharging a customer.

Shafique Miah was fined £220 after pleading guilty to failing to use the taxi-meter in his car, meaning he charged more than the maximum fare allowed for the journey.

The borough council’s licensing team received a complaint about Miah, a Hackney Carriage driver, back in May. It was claimed that he had picked up a customer at the town’s train station and taken him to the council offices in Tithe Barn Road, without switching on the meter. At the end of the short journey, Miah told the passenger the fare was £5.

When challenged about not using the meter, Miah replied that £5 was the minimum fare from the station.

Licensing officers from Wellingborough Council investigated the complaint and determined that the fare was in excess of the maximum allowed under the set tariff prescribed by the council, and that not using the meter for the journey was contrary to the council’s byelaws for Hackney Carriages. The council prosecuted Miah for one offence under the byelaws for not using the taxi-meter in his vehicle.

On Monday, Shafique Miah, of Alexandra Road, Wellingborough, pleaded guilty to the offence at Northampton Magistrates Court. He was fined £100, with £100 costs and a £20 victim surcharge. He will now be referred to the council’s licensing sub-committee.

Amanda Wilcox, Wellingborough Council’s Health Protection Manager, said: “This seems like a small amount, but overcharging is a serious offence no matter how much it involves. It is essential that the public can trust a taxi driver.

“Our health protection and licensing officers will not hesitate to take enforcement action against any licensed driver found to be taking advantage of members of the public, or not complying with the conditions attached to their licence.

“We would particularly advise anyone using a Hackney Carriage to ensure the driver sets the meter running at the start of any journey. The tariff of maximum fares must be displayed in every Hackney Carriage and drivers should not charge more than this amount for journeys within the borough.

“Anyone who thinks they’ve been overcharged should request a receipt from the driver, make a note of the driver and vehicle details, and contact the licensing team on 01933 231 966.”

The council is also offering advice on the differences between Hackney Carriages and private hire vehicles, and what people can expect from both.

Amanda Wilcox continued: “Hackney Carriages are yellow saloons or black cabs, and will have white licence plates on the rear of the car and inside. A Hackney Carriage can be flagged down on the street, picked up from a rank or be pre-booked. They will have a meter fitted and this must be used for every journey.

“A private hire car can only be pre-booked through a licensed operator and can’t pick people up without a prior booking. They don’t have meters in the cars and can charge any fare, which is why we’d recommend passengers agree a price in advance of the journey. Private hire cars will have a yellow licence plate on the back and inside the car.

“Whether Hackney Carriage or private hire, people should expect a clean and tidy, smoke-free vehicle, in good repair, with a polite, courteous driver who wears their badge prominently and drives safely, plus reasonable assistance if required, for example with any luggage.”

Read more: http://www.northampton-news-hp.co.uk/

Nov 19

Falmouth man David Parsons jailed for attack on taxi driver

A FALMOUTH man who attacked a taxi driver while he was driving through the town centre, has been jailed.

David Parsons, 55, of High Street, got into the back Henry Taylor’s taxi with a woman who got into the front passenger seat, on August 26, Truro magistrates heard on Wednesday.

Alison May, for the prosecution, said Mr Taylor asked for help with directions to their destination and explained that he had only been doing the job for a couple of weeks.

She said Parsons started swearing and then grabbed Mr Taylor with two hands from behind, digging his fingers into Mr Taylor’s eyes, who later told police that the scary thing about the attack was that he was driving on Killigrew Street at the time.

Ms May said Mr Taylor stopped the taxi and that Parsons then began to punch him, landing two or three blows before Mr Taylor was able to get away from him.

She said: “Mr Taylor describes he could see the female passenger nearby and she was able to give him some details.

“Mr Taylor says that he suffered no actual injuries but his face and eyes were sore.”

Parsons was identified in a police identification procedure.

He previously pleaded guilty to common assault in relation to the incident and the court heard he had previous convictions including battery, theft and for assaulting a police constable.

Deborah Von Kohler, for the defence, said Parsons had a problem with alcohol, which he had had for a number of years.

She said he had no memory of the incident but was apologetic.

She said: “It is the alcohol that is behind the offending”, and urged the magistrates to place Parsons on an alcohol treatment requirement.

Parsons was jailed for eight weeks and ordered to pay an £80 victim surcharge.

Read more: http://www.westbriton.co.uk/

Nov 19

Birmingham Council ‘buried’ report into link between Asian private hire drivers and child exploitation

Dr Jill Jesson said the report into grooming was ‘buried’

Researcher says her critical report into child grooming involving girls in its care in the early 90s had all links to ethnicity removed

Birmingham City Council ‘buried’ a report linking Asian private hire drivers to child sexual exploitation victims 23 YEARS ago.

Researcher Dr Jill Jesson was asked by the authority to look at the issue of child prostitution involving girls in care back in 1990.

The following year, after six months’ research, she produced a critical report which showed child protection failings by social workers and other agencies.

Her report also highlighted claims that some Asian private hire drivers were linked to the sexual exploitation of young girls in care, including some who had been cautioned for prostitution offences.

Yet when Dr Jesson presented her draft findings to a steering group, she was ordered to remove all reference linking ethnicity and the private hire trade.

Incredibly, her amended final report was never published. A meeting planned to discuss it was cancelled – and all copies were to be destroyed.

The Birmingham Mail has now tracked down Dr Jesson, a respected academic, who spoke about her research and the missing report for the first time.

“I was employed to do the work because I think they thought I would be objective,” she said. “I was told to reveal what I saw.

“I did – and some people didn’t like it.

“There was a link between the sexual abuse of the girls and private hire drivers in the city. I thought at the time I did the work that there was an issue with race. Most of the girls were white.

“I was asked to take this link out, to erase it.”

Recent child sexual exploitation scandals in Rotherham and Rochdale revealed how young white girls were abused by gangs of Asian men. An official report into Rotherham, where up to 1,400 victims suffered sickening abuse, said many offenders had been private hire drivers.

Dr Jesson said: “Every time a news item has come on about sexual grooming of young girls and girls in care, and the link, too, between private hire drivers, I have thought ‘I told them about that in 1991 but they didn’t want to acknowledge it..’

“I think the problem has got worse and worse over time.”

Dr Jesson was hired by the council to conduct the Government-funded study into the health issues of child prostitution involving girls in care. She identified 20 girls in care at that time who authorities believed had become involved in child prostitution.

“It wasn’t called grooming then, it was called prostitution,” Dr Jesson said. “The girls were all aged between 13 and 17 and were all under the care of Birmingham City Council social services.”

The city council commissioned me to carry out the piece of research because they knew there was a problem. I was employed to ascertain the scale of the problem. They wanted to quantify it so social services could manage it.”

Yet from the beginning Dr Jesson faced difficulty obtaining information, with some social workers misguidedly covering for girls in their care.

She said: “I was not helped by the fact that social services had inadequate recording methods. That was a big problem and my report was also critical of the council’s policy around tackling the problem.”

”The 20 girls identified had all come from troubled homes and most had beensexually abused by family members. Around 15 of them were white, while the rest were mixed race.

“Yet once in care the young victims suffered further abuse after being groomed by older ‘boyfriends’

“A friendly young man would pick up the girl, say he loved her, buy her presents and before she knew it she was being shared around his mates,” said Dr Jesson.

The links between city taxi drivers, believed to be private hire drivers, and the young girls was initially made clear in the report – until the researcher was ordered to take the detail out.

Dr Jesson said: “It was written in the social services’ notes of the girls that the girls had told about taxi drivers being one of the features of what was happening to them.”

“I thought there was a link between Asian taxi drivers – private hire drivers they were – and the girls who were getting the cautions for prostitution.

I put that in the report and was asked to remove that, too.”

“The role of the police seemed to be to find girls who were reported asmissing. Their job was to find the girls, bring them back to the homes, but then the staff running the homes would just let them walk out again.”

report was shelved, buried, it was never made public.”

Birmingham City Council’s Peter Hay, Strategic Director of People said: “This is a matter which was discussed in full and in public over 20 years ago.”

source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/

Nov 18

Lib Dem councillor defends his decision over rapist taxi driver

Councillor Stuart Burke

A rapist who drove a city taxi for three years had “done his crime, served his time”, according to a Milton Keynes councillor.

Councillor Stuart Burke was chairman of MK Council’s licensing committee which renewed the licence of Nadeem Ahmed Kiani – despite documentation detailing his convictions.

Mr Kiani attacked women by hiding in the back of a car, threatening them with weapons and forcing them to strip.

But in an internal audit released by MK Council today, Mr Burke is quoted as defending his decision to grant the rapist – convicted of four serious sexual assaults – a taxi licence.

Mr Burke said: “If you are just going to look at the paperwork then everyone who ever comes before me is guilty.

“If you merely look at the paperwork and you’re not there listening to what the person has to say you get a different impression.

“You see a very different person to the person you saw; you see someone who understood what he had done wrong and realised.

“I think that it did weigh heavily on our mind that the time that had passed between his offences and now.

“I still look at our current policy and think, well would he fall foul of our current policy and I don’t think he would.”

Mr Kiani forced his victims to remove their clothes before being raped and seriously sexually assaulted in turn over a three-month period in 1994.

Mr Burke’s fellow Lib Dem councillor Subhan Shafiq gave a character reference for Mr Kiani at the committee meeting. In August, Mr Shafiq stepped down as Mayor of Milton Keynes over the scandal.

Mr Burke added: “He was incredibly frank about what had happened.

“In fact he told us more than is on here, which is what had suprised me to be honest. He then proceeded to admit and acknowledge that what he’s done was wrong and that he accepted that.

“He was a 20-year-old and had made mistakes and that he’d served his time; he regretted everything he had done.”

source: http://www.miltonkeynes.co.uk/

 

 

TAXI ROW: Decision to grant convicted rapist a licence ‘followed procedure’

An internal report by Milton Keynes Council has found that councillors ‘followed procedure’ when they granted a taxi licence to a convicted rapist.

But the internal audit report questioned whether the decision was ‘appropriate, good or reasonable’ and has implemented a number of new policies to try and avoid previous mistakes.

It stop shorts however of recommending whether anybody should resign from their roles following the scandal.

Council leader Pete Marland and chief executive Carole Mills held a press conference at the civic offices this morning to unveil the report – which follows the decision of a number of councillors to grant convicted rapist Nadeem Ahmed Kiani a private hire licence, and subsequently a hackney carriage licence.

Councillors Stuart Burke and Gladstone McKenzie stepped down from their roles on the committee after the licence was granted, while Subhan Shafiq resigned from his position as Mayor having given a character reference to Kiani, who he said he had known since childhood.

Despite numerous calls from colleagues, and two official petitions, Cllrs Burke, McKenzie and Shafiq are still operating as councillors.

The report highlights a number of changes which have either already been implemented or are in the process of being implemented. They include:

*Training to be provided for councillors on the regulatory sub committee. Training has already been arranged for November 24.
•Considering disallowing personal references from councillors.
•Taking full minutes of regulatory sub committee meetings, and recording how individual councillors have voted
•Carrying out new DBS checks on taxi drivers

One recommendation not carried through though was a prohibition of granting a licence in relation to some convictions – including sexual offences.

The report considered that the existing policy was ‘sufficient to deal with all eventualities to safeguard the public’.

Carole Mills, chief executive of Milton Keynes Council, said: “I commissioned this review in light of the serious concerns brought to our attention in late August, both to understand how a convicted rapist had been granted a taxi licence, and to examine all the processes and procedures associated with taxi licensing.

“The audit committee will receive the report when they meet on November 25.

“The report concludes that the licence application and review of applicant A (Nadeem Ahmed Kiani) were dealt with in a manner that was consistent with other cases at the time, and that the decision was within the scope of discretion allowed. However, although procedure was followed, this does not automatically mean that the decisions were appropriate, good or reasonable.

“There are also a number of recommendations within the report relating to improvements of taxi related procedure. It is important to emphasise that the report focuses on the policy at the time these recommendations were made.

“I’m pleased to say that in the intervening months, significant improvements have been made to the council’s taxi licencing service. Of all the recommendations made, most have already been implemented while others are in progress.

“Actions we have taken so far include adopting a new taxi licencing policy in September, comprehensive training for councillors sitting on the regulatory sub committee, all drivers names and badge numbers and the details of their start and expiry date of licence are now published on the website, and we have contacted all 1,300 private hire and hackney carriage drivers and offered them an appointment to come in for an enhanced DBS check.

“We can deal with 105 individuals every day, and by Friday this mean we should have seen 420 drivers. We have however only processed 241 due to a high proportion of no shows, which we are of course following up.

“We have also had to turn away a number of drivers due to insufficient documentation.

“This has been a very difficult time for the council and the taxi trade, but as a result of the work we have done we have more rubust procedures in place which will help the council make sound decisions relating to taxi licencing.”

Read more: http://www.mkweb.co.uk/

Nov 17

Hanley minicab driver avoids driving ban after appeal

Judge David Fletcher confirmed Iftab Hussain was not banned from driving.

Minicab driver Iftab Hussain has been allowed to continue driving after he appealed against a court decision.

Magistrates told the 26-year-he could face a six-month ban after he accepted a fare on the street – contrary to his licence.

He was given eight penalty points after being convicted in his absence at North Staffordshire Justice Centre for driving without insurance and driving a “taxi” that is not licensed as a public hackney carriage.

But Hussain, of Gilman Street, Hanley, appealed the sentencing because he argued he previously had three points on his licence – and not four – so should not be banned.

The appeal was heard by Judge David Fletcher and two justices at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court.

Judge Fletcher agreed Hussain is not banned from driving, but that he shall still receive eight points.

He will still pay a £350 fine and a victim surcharge but costs were reduced to £85.

He told him: “The sentence will be upheld so that you will not be disqualified from driving.

“You have a licence now with 11 points.

“That will remain the case until June 2016 which is the anniversary of your previous points.

“Until that point, if you commit a single traffic offence you will be off the road.”

Read more: http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/

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