The taxi driver who died was found to have cocaine in his system
Drug testing for taxi drivers in Birmingham has moved a step closer following a tragic road collision where six people were killed.
Inquests into the victims who died in the crash at Belgrave Middleway on December 17 heard that one of them, taxi driver Imtiaz Mohammed, aged 33, had cocaine in his system although it was not said to have caused the incident.
Senior Coroner Louise Hunt subsequently wrote to Birmingham City Council as well as Sandwell Borough Council – which had issued his hackney carriage licence – expressing concerns there was no drug testing policy in place at either authority.
In her letter she said: “The level of cocaine metabolite would have resulted in the deceased being over the legal drug drive limit. This did not contribute to this collision.
“However West Midlands Police raised concerns at the inquest that there was presently no system in place to monitor and check whether taxi drivers are over the drug limit whilst driving.
“They confirmed in evidence that some sort of testing was required for the safety of passengers.
“In my opinion action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you have the power to take such action.”
This week Birmingham City Council’s licensing and public protection committee approved a proposal for officers to produce a draft drugs testing policy for drivers.
Questions were asked about how it might be implemented while Manawar Hussain, from T.O.A. Taxis stated it would have an impact on drivers.
But Emma Rohomon, acting head of licensing, said the details would not be known until the policy had been drawn up stating it would be brought back to the committee who could reject it if it was not feasible.
She added the council was under a legal obligation to respond to the coroner’s letter.
Imtiaz Mohammed was killed alongside his two passengers Lucy Davis, 43, and her partner Lee Jenkins, 42, when the taxi was hit by a speeding Audi travelling in the opposite direction.
Three of the four people in the Audi, driver Kasar Jehangir, 25, Mohammed Fahsha, 30, and Tauqeer Hussain, 26, were also killed while fourth man Zakkria Khan, 18, survived.
The coroner ruled the collision was caused by the excessive speed of the Audi which was estimated to be travelling between 94mph to 100mph on the 40mph route.
LICENSING chiefs handed out suspensions to two private-hire drivers earlier this week.
Bolton Council’s traffic matters licensing sub-committee imposed the penalties at a town hall meeting earlier this week.
Members heard a private hire driver was caught breaking the speed limit on a motor in November last year.
They acknowledged the driver had declared his conviction as required by the conditions of his licence. But the driver had previously appeared before the committee in April 2011 in connection with three other offences.
The panel imposed a hit with a two-week suspension, noting that “drivers have a duty to adhere to speed limits at all times and exceeding them can be a real danger to public safety.”
A second private hire driver was suspended for four weeks. He had committed two “minor and intermediate offences” in August and December last year, including exceeding the passenger vehicle speed limit.
But members were concerned he had failed to declare either of the convictions and felt the offences occurring within four months of each other — suggested he was “developing a pattern of bad driving habits”. But the panel also renewed two private hire vehicle licences after finding the drivers to be “fit and proper persons”.
The Liverpool Echo reports that a former Halton councillor’s taxi driving licence has been suspended for a week over a Facebook group he set up that featured ‘offensive’ and ‘bullying’ comments towards council officials.
But an initial three-month suspension imposed against John Gerrard, former Labour member for Mersey ward in Runcorn, was set aside when he appeared at Warrington combined court on Friday to appeal against it, with the decision to take effect 21 days hence from the hearing.
District Judge Bridget Knight said she was giving Mr Gerrard the benefit of the doubt.
The matter relates to a 48-hour window from November 1-3, when a ‘Halton Taxi Owners & Drivers’ Facebook group set up by Mr Gerrard, briefly became public.
Mr Gerrard was also the group ‘admin’ and was a serving Labour councillor at the time.
Halton Council’s legal counsel Malcolm Hope told the court that Mr Gerrard himself had been party to making offensive comments, referring to the local authority taxi enforcement officer Nick Wheeler as a ‘d***’ and senior council traffic officer Stephen Rimmer a ‘t***’.
Former Halton councillor John Gerrard’s former Facebook profile picture and header. He told the court he could not discuss the police badge’s relevance and his former employment in an open setting.
Judge Knight dismissed Mr Gerrard’s claims that ‘d***’ had been a ‘nickname’ for Mr Wheeler, and that predictive text was to blame for him calling Mr Rimmer a ‘t***’ when he had meant to say ‘twit’.
Most of the ‘offensive’ comments were about Mr Wheeler. Mr Hope said the official had been ‘ridiculed, degraded and insulted throughout these posts’.
When quizzed by Mr Hope, who claimed the Facebook page had a sparked a ‘witch hunt’ from a social media ‘mob’, Mr Gerrard denied being a ‘bully’ or ‘abusive’ and disputed that the tone of the comments was ‘bullying’ or ‘threatening’.
The former Labour councillor, who was an elected member until May when he did not re-stand for election, told the hearing he was bad with computers and had not known how to log in to his Facebook taxi group.
Two other taxi drivers were each suspended for one month in January by Halton Council’s regulatory committee for offensive comments they made about Mr Wheeler in the Facebook group, but did not appeal and apologised as required by the committee.
The hearing heard two others had received warnings.
Mr Gerrard’s solicitor, Anthony Schiller, said his client had an ‘exemplary’ record as a taxi driver spanning 20 years, and had no penalty points, had a clean Disclosure And Barring Service certificate and had received no sustained complaints but had been praised for his work including with vulnerable residents.
He urged Judge Knight to replace Mr Gerrard’s ‘disproportionate’ suspension with a lower penalty.
He said the comments made against Mr Wheeler by the two drivers who had been suspended for one month by Halton Council’s regulatory committee had been more ‘colourful’, adding that this suggested the panel members had an ‘axe to grind’.
Judge Knight remarked that social media users may say lots of things due to ‘freedom of speech’, saying that she herself had been called an ‘incompetent cow’ on Youtube.
In her summing up, she said Mr Wheeler’s authority and ability to do his job had been undermined but that it was reasonable for staff in the same job to have a ‘talking shop’ and the group was public for a short time, remarking ‘we’re only talking about 48 hours’.
She said: “All what was being laid at his door was by misinformed people.
“They had got the wrong end of the stick but naturally that unleashed personal venom.”
She added: “I am giving him (Mr Gerrard) the benefit of the doubt.
“He knew it was a closed site, he was encouraging rather than saying to them ‘listen chaps, we’ve gone far enough’.
“It wasn’t just chaps, it was women as well who raised some of the more vile comments.
“He never said ‘we’ve gone too far, let’s keep this proper and professional’ and for that he must bear some responsibility.”
The judge rejected an appeal from Mr Schiller for the council to pay costs.
She said the committee members were ‘doing exactly what they are elected to do’ in ‘benefit of the public’, adding: “There will be no costs.”
Inverness Sheriff Court heard yesterday that Sam McKevitt, of Braeface, was “so drunk that he couldn’t stand, far less speak”
A Christmas Eve night on the town proved costly when a 23-year-old Alness man fell out with a taxi driver.
Inverness Sheriff Court heard yesterday that Sam McKevitt, of Braeface, was “so drunk that he couldn’t stand, far less speak” when he got into a cab in Inverness city centre.
The court heard the driver asked him for his address and he replied: “106 boom boom boom.”
But the driver was not amused and despite repeated attempts to find out where McKevitt wanted to go, he stopped and McKeviit got out of the vehicle.
Fiscal depute Fiona Murray told the court that McKevitt was then abusive and offensive towards the driver, making a prejudiced comment about him being a Muslim.
Defence agent Clare Russell said the taxi driver then made an offensive comment about her client’s mother.
“But that was no excuse for what went before.” she added.
Sheriff David Sutherland fined McKevitt £500.
A private hire driver has been stripped of his licence after licking a woman’s face.
Birmingham City Council revoked the licence of the private hire operator, who has not been identified, following a report of sexual assault made to West Midlands Police.
The female passenger told officers that the driver initially grabbed her by the scarf before attempting to ‘stick his tongue down her throat’.
The woman managed to pull away and still offered to pay him the fair before he tried again to kiss her, but instead licked her face.
The incident was referred to the council on April 19.
On the same day licensing officials visited the driver’s home address to inform him his licence had been revoked.
The case was included in a report which went before the council’s licensing and public protection committee today (Wednesday, June 20).
It said: “On 19 April 2018 the Licensing Enforcement Section received information from the West Midlands Police: on or about the same date a female passenger was assaulted in a sexual manner by the driver of a private hire vehicle: the driver grabbed her by her scarf and attempted to ‘stick his tongue down her throat’.
“She was able to free herself and leave the vehicle.
“She approached the driver’s window to pay him but he again grabbed her by the scarf and tried to kiss her but ended up licking her face and nose.”
Emma Rohomon, the council’s acting head of licensing, informed the committee that the driver has since appealed to magistrates against the revocation.
The Eastern Daily Press reports that a judge said taxi drivers deserve the protection of the courts after he jailed a fare dodger, who pulled a knife on a driver after refusing to pay for his journey
Raymond Flower, 36, had got a taxi from Attleborough to Norwich with another man, but when they got to Heigham Street they both jumped out the taxi and refused to pay the £40 fare which had been agreed beforehand, Norwich Crown Court heard.
John Morgans, prosecuting, said the other man in the taxi ran off and Flower was rude to the driver and told him he had not got the cash.
Mr Morgans said the driver followed Flower in his car asking again for the fare.
He said Flower then stopped and rummaged in his gym bag before suddenly pulling out a craft knife and threatening the driver that he would “open him up” if he got out the car.
In an impact statement the victim said he froze because he thought Flower was going to carry out his threat and said he looked menacing.
Mr Morgans said the victim stayed in his car but kept an eye on where Flower went and phoned police who were quickly on the scene. Police arrested Flower and recovered the knife.
Flower of Globe Place, Norwich, admitted having a bladed article and threatening behaviour on March 4, this year and was jailed 14 months.
Judge Andrew Shaw told him: “You must have known from the start that you had no intention to pay.”
He said the taxi driver had taken the job on trust to drive him to Norwich and said: “Taxi drivers are there to serve the public and they are entitled to protection from the courts.”
After hearing that drink lay behind Flower’s offending he added:”The longer you can avoid alcohol the better the chance of you not committing offences.”
Rob Pollington, for Flower, said that he had a number of issues and had an alcohol problem but despite concerns about him in the cells he said he was satisfied he was fit to appear in court for his sentencing hearing.
He said that Flower struggled with depression and anxiety and used alcohol and drugs to self-medicate: “He makes the wrong decision while under the influence.”
He said that he had been carrying the knife for a legal purpose until he had produced it from his bag.
The southern reporter reports that a 42-year-old man has been ordered to carry out 60 hours’ unpaid work for hiring a taxi between Galashiels and Innerleithen but not paying the £25 fare. Kevin Wilkinson pleaded guilty to committing that offence near his home in Caddon Court, Innerleithen, on May 31.
Procurator Graham Fraser told Selkirk Sheriff Court that Wilkinson asked a taxi driver to take him the 12-mile journey to Innerleithen, saying he was meeting a friend who would give him the money for the £25 fare.
He added: “Inevitably, it did not happen, and the taxi driver lost out on £25.”
Sheriff Euan Edmont told Wilkinson: “I hope you are not proud of this. Quite clearly, you planned this against someone who was just going about their work.”
Wilkinson’s unpaid work is to be carried out over the next six months as an alternative to custody.
Read more at: https://www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk/news/innerleithen-taxi-fare-dodger-ordered-to-do-unpaid-work-1-4757482
Air Quality news reports that Leeds city council has outlined details of its final proposal for the establishment of a Clean Air Zone in the city, following feedback from residents and businesses.
Proposals were initially outlined in December, and the city council has submitted revised proposals following a public consultation process.
Leeds proposals include the introduction of a ‘category B’ clean air zone in the city centre, alongside stricter requirements for the registration of taxis in the city
The council has been directed by the government to provide a full business case by 15 September 2018 which addresses the city’s proposals to ensure it becomes compliant with air quality standards in the shortest possible time.
At a meeting of the council’s executive board next week (27 June), members will be asked to approve entering into a period of statutory public consultation on both the clean air charging zone, the enforcement of anti-idling, the citywide clean air strategy and proposed changes to licensing conditions for taxis and private hire vehicles.
Boundary and charges
Changes to the proposals include a smaller boundary area, as well as revisions to the proposed charges to be levied on heavy goods vehicles after feedback from the initial consultation suggested a charge of £100 was too high.
Now the council is proposing a charge for buses, coaches and HGVS of £50 a day and a charge of £12.50 a day for taxi and private hire vehicles, with a reduced weekly rate available for Leeds licensed drivers who choose to purchase this in advance.
The council is also seeking government support to accredit HGV retrofits and help smaller companies finance the change, along with a national register of private hire and taxis to ensure all relevant vehicles entering the zone are charged proportionately.
On a national level, the council is pushing for a nationwide policy on intercity charging that would see vehicles only charged once per day regardless of the number of Clean Air Zones that were entered.
Councillor James Lewis, the city council’s executive board member for resources and sustainability said: “Ensuring we reduce pollution levels across the whole city is a real priority for the council and something we are working hard to achieve. As much as the clean air charging zone forms a key part of our preferred scheme – ensuring all our communities are able to breath clean air is the end goal.
“We will be entering into a statutory consultation at the end of June (subject to approval by the executive board) and will be asking for feedback on our preferred scheme for a Clean Air Charging Zone and the clean air strategy for the whole city – including what our ambitions should or could look like after 2020.”
He added: “As part of ensuring we submit a business case that works for the whole city, we are currently engaging with those trades and organisations that will be directly affected by the implementation of a charging zone in Leeds.
“These meetings are vital for us to better understand the support that businesses who operate in the city need to make the move to become ‘compliant’ under the clean air charging zone stipulations.”
A private hire driver has been forced to pay £1,000 after illegally plying for hire in Reading last year.
Alyas Mahmood, 45, of Greathill Crescent, Maidenhead, became the second taxi driver successfully prosecuted at Reading Magistrates’ Court this month for illegally plying for hire in Reading, Berkshire.
The licensed private hire driver from Windsor and Maidenhead, was spotted by Reading Borough Council officers in Friar Street plying for trade at 12.38am on Sunday, December 17.
Mahmood falsely displayed a taxi roof sign and failed to display a Private Hire Vehicle badge or plate while parked in a Reading Hackney Carriage taxi rank.
He pleaded guilty at court on Friday, June 8, and was ordered to pay fines totalling £600, a £30 victim surcharge and £340 in legal costs.
Private hire drivers are only allowed to pick up fares booked in advance.
Councillor Tony Page, lead member for strategic environment, planning and transport, said:
“Thanks to the hard work of the council’s licensing team, we are sending out the message this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated.
“I hope both these prosecutions serve as a deterrent to drivers who are tempted to work illegally and opportunistically in Reading.”
The council’s licensing team carries out test purchases and spot checks to ensure drivers and vehicles meet the council’s standards and adhere to current taxi legislation.
Stray FM reports that Officers from North Yorkshire Police’s Road Policing Group have carried out a multi-agency operation to check on taxis in Harrogate, to ensure the vehicles are providing a safe service to passengers.
Police officers working with partners from Harrogate Borough Council, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) carried out the operation which ran from 6pm to 11pm on Friday 15th June 2018.
A total of 23 private hire vehicles and Hackney Carriages were checked, to ensure that drivers were properly licenced and in compliance with HMRC rules, and that vehicles were safe to carry customers on the roads.
All 23 vehicles underwent full mechanical examinations for defects by the DVSA. As a result of the checks only one taxi, licenced in the Bradford area, was given an immediate prohibition notice by the DVSA, which means the vehicle was ordered off the road due to faults with its tyres.
Three other vehicles were given a delayed prohibition notice due to issues with wheels, suspension and other components, giving them seven days to rectify the fault. Seven drivers were advised in relation to minor vehicle defects and several drivers were also warned by taxi inspectors about breaches of taxi licencing rules.
Traffic Sergeant Andy Morton, of North Yorkshire Police’s Roads Policing Group, said:
“We have been conducting these operations periodically for the last five years in an effort to improve safety for taxi customers.
“Previous years’ operations have found a significant number of vehicles were below the necessary safety standards, resulting in them being taken off the road. While it is disappointing that this year’s operation found four vehicles that had to be issued with some sort of prohibition notice, there has been a noticeable improvement in the overall condition of the vehicles inspected over the last two years, which I am very pleased about.
“I would again remind taxi drivers that it is their responsibility to ensure their vehicle is free of defects before they use it, regardless of the fact it is a company vehicle. They will be held responsible for these defects which ultimately put their safety at risk, as well as that of their passengers.
“I would, however, like to commend many of the drivers for the improvements we have seen in overall vehicle safety and compliance. We will be continuing these enforcement operations with our partners to ensure standards are maintained.”