East Lancs taxi drivers face ‘scrap car’ threat

TAXI drivers in Hyndburn will be forced to scrap cars that don’t meet emissions targets, it was revealed.

The council’s new taxi policy will come into force next month following a consultation with drivers in the borough, if councillors agree.

Hackney carriage owners will be made to install a swivel seat for disabled passengers, and signage and markings on glasswork will be banned.

Although the council has backtracked on plans to take private hire cars older than seven years off the road, because ‘vehicle age is potentially an arbitrary test’, it is mainly only newer models that will meet the new emissions standards.

The council said vehicles must meet the Euro Three standard by 2015, Euro Four by 2016 and Euro Five by 2017.

EU directives stated all cars must be Euro Five standard by September 2010.

All cars will continue to be tested twice a year, and three when they reach the age of seven.

A spokesman for Accrington firm Max Cabs said: “This has not been finalised, it’s a long way from being finalised and if people want to contest it they can do, although I don’t know if any will.

“It will be better for taxiing in general. We will have a clean, better fleet and drivers will have a newer car that they will probably take better care of.”

The Lancashire Telegraph first revealed plans to bring in a new policy in December.

Speaking at the time, deputy council leader Coun Clare Pritchard said: “This is about providing a comprehensive plan.

“We have several policies hanging around and this will bring it into one complete policy.

“I would hope it would improve standards.”

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

Newcastle Borough Council votes to tighten taxi age restrictions

 

SAVE OUR LIVELIHOODS: Tariq Mahmood, front, with cabbies protesting outside the civic offices in Newcastle.

TAXI drivers have lost their fight against plans to tighten age restrictions on their vehicles.

Newcastle Borough Council has decided to stop re-licensing Hackney carriage saloon car vehicles once they are eight-years-old.

Previously saloon cars could remain licensed as Hackney carriages as long as they passed an annual MOT test, while only those licensed as private hire vehicles had to be ‘retired’ after eight years.

Members of the Newcastle and Kidsgrove Taxi Association staged a protest prior to the meeting at the Civic Offices in Merrial Street last night.

But the full council voted to change the licensing policy to ensure the safety and reliability of the vehicles.

Tariq Mahmood, chairman of the Newcastle and Kidsgrove Taxi Association, has hit out at the decision and said the group would not give up its fight.

The 50-year-old, of North Road, Cobridge, who has been working as a cabbie for eight years, said: “We are angry about the decision and we do not accept that this is the right thing to do.

“It is stupid that in neighbouring Stoke-on-Trent the policy is completely different in that Hackney carriage vehicles don’t have to retire at a certain age, as long as they pass a MOT and a suitability test.

“A lot of taxi drivers can’t afford to buy new cars and this will hit us hard.

“We will have to raise taxi fares and the fact that saloon hackney carriages in Stoke-on-Trent can travel to Newcastle will put us out of business.

“If it isn’t unsafe for people to be sat in Stoke-on-Trent licensed taxis that are more than eight years old, why is it unsafe for them to sit in ours?

“It is our livelihood that is affected and it feels like we don’t have a say on the matter. More than 100 drivers are affected by this decision and we will keep fighting this.”

Father-of-three Abdul Halim, aged 47, of Winifred Street, Hanley, said: “We simply can’t afford to replace a car just because it’s eight years old. A car of that age is not an old car and there is no reason why it isn’t safe. My car was made in 2007 so now it means I will have to buy another one next year.

“Times are already hard for taxi drivers as people are taking less taxis in this economic climate and the council isn’t helping matters.

“I don’t understand why Newcastle Borough Council have decided to do this.”

Conservative councillors voted against the proposals, saying they would have an impact on taxi drivers who were already struggling.

But Labour councillor Mark Olszewski, chairman of the public protection committee, accused the Tories of electioneering, saying the authority had a duty to ensure the safety of residents.

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

Minicab driver prosecuted for snubbing blind person

A PRIVATE-hire driver has been fined for refusing to take a guide dog in his minicab.

Mohammed Foysal (40), of Laxley Close, Oldham, was asked to pick up a fare outside B&Q Oldham and take the passenger to Shaw. But when Foysal arrived at the store he was heard to say he didn’t allow dogs in his car.

The refusal was reported to Oldham Council and Foysal told a licensing officer he was scared of the dog, which had licked him on a previous journey.

At Oldham Magistrates Court Foysal pleaded guilty to Oldham’s first prosecution under the Equality Act of 2010. He was fined £73 and ordered to pay costs of £320.

In a separate case, a shopkeeper was fined for selling alcohol to a child during a test purchase run by trading standards officers.

Last August a staff member at St Mary’s Convenience Store in Henshaw Street sold four cans of lager to a 15 year old.

The store’s owner, Ahmed Fahim Yousef Zada of Henshaw Street, was prosecuted as he is responsible for his employees’ actions.

Zada (29), who had previously been cautioned for the same offence in 2012, was fined £220 and ordered to pay costs of £350.

source: http://www.oldham-chronicle.co.uk/

Court upholds minicab licence decision

The owner of a minicab firm which has had it’s licence revoked has seen the decision upheld by magistrates after he challenged it in court.

Councillors in Wolverhampton ordered for the licence of Westside Radio Cars to be revoked in October but Tahir Hussain, the owner of the firm, had appealed to magistrates.

It was revoked after a council investigation found they had four uninsured cars operating over a weekend in July last year.

Mr Hussain had appealed the original decision, which was made by the licensing sub-committee in October, and appeared at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court to hear his fate.

But magistrates upheld the ruling made by the committee, saying he was not a ‘fit and proper’ person to run the firm.

Mrs Sarah Hardwick, who represented Wolverhampton City Council at the hearing, said Mr Hussain had failed to provide the correct insurance documents when the council visited their base. She told the court that the trips the four uninsured cars carried out jeopardised public safety.

She said: “Under council guidelines, they can revoke a license for multiple breaches of guidelines, and the council believe there were multiple breaches as a number of journeys were made across the weekend.”

She said Mr Hussain accepted that the cars he was using from another company, Motor Accident Claims Ltd, were not properly insured.

Chairman of the bench, Dr Alison Felce ordered Mr Hussain to pay £2,125.52 in costs, but he said he will now appeal to the crown court.

Speaking after the hearing, he said: “I have 21 days now to appeal which I will do. I feel as though we have been treated unfairly and I will take it as far as I need to, to clear my name.”

source: http://www.expressandstar.com/

Taxi driver was playing Johnny Mathis CD in his cab – when the US singing star got in

John McManus with his hero Johnny Mathis

Black cab driver John McManus had the surprise of his life when he picked up his musical hero after his concert in Manchester.

A taxi driver who has been a Johnny Mathis fan for 30 years had the surprise of his life when he went to pick up a fare – and his musical hero climbed into the back of his cab.

John McManus had been hoping to see the veteran crooner in concert in Manchester on Saturday night but was left disappointed when he was unable to get a ticket.

The morning after the concert at the Phones4u Arena, 65-year-old John, of Manchester Road, Wardley, put on a CD of Johnny Mathis’ greatest hits as he was sent to collect a passenger at the Lowry Hotel.

And the granddad of five was stunned when the 78-year-old American star opened the door and sat on the back seat.

His favourite song ‘Someone’ – with the line ‘someone wants to say hello’ – was playing just as Mathis climbed in.

John said: “As this line of the song played the cab door opened and I heard a voice say ‘you’ve got good taste in music.’

“I turned around, saw it was Johnny and all I could think to say to him in return was ‘hiyah’. I had no idea who I was picking up before I arrived at the Lowry. My company was booked by the hotel concierge to pick up an ‘A class’ customer.

“My children have grown up listening to his music and my wife is a massive fan. I phoned my wife afterwards and said ‘you won’t believe who I’ve had in the back of my cab’ and she guessed Wayne Rooney.

“She screamed when I told her it was Johnny. This has definitely made my year,”

John continued to play the Greatest Hits collection during the 45-minute drive with his hero. And he overcame his nerves to tell him that they have similar names – he is known to friends and family as ‘John-E’ – and that he was sorry to miss out on getting tickets to his first Manchester show in three years.

Before dropping the Texan-born hitmaker off at the Mere Golf Resort and Spa in Knutsford, where he was due to play a round of golf, he couldn’t resist asking for a photo of the pair together, which Johnny happily obliged. He was also rewarded with a handshake and a hug from the performer.

John added: “I have all his albums and I seen him in concert loads of times, every time he has been over to the UK, apart from this one. Even when I lived in Spain I would fly in to see him. So I was gutted to miss him this time round.

“But this was better than going to the show. I feel like I got the cherry on the cake. I told that him that I had followed his career for many years and he hugged me. He told me that the Manchester public are beautiful.

“He’s an A class singer and his personality is just as good as his songs. He is a nice, pleasant guy.

“Luckily I always carry a camera in my black cab.

“After that I had to go straight home. I just couldn’t get over what had happened.

“I’m still buzzing from the experience now.

“I feel like all my birthdays and Christmases have come at once.”

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

Dec 31

Geely to buy bankrupt London Taxis

The Chinese press are reporting that Geely are to buy London Taxi maker Manganese Bronze, which went in to liquidation in October.

Back in October we reported that Manganese Bronze – makers of the iconic London Taxi – had gone in to administration, finally tipped over the edge by steering box failures in the TX4.

After years of under-investment – and a product that has been usurped by both the Mercedes Vito Taxi and the new Nissan NV200 Taxi – it looked like Manganese Bronze had no way back. Even 20 per cent owners Geely – who had been building the TX4 in China to ship to the UK to be bolted together in an effort to cut costs – weren’t willing to stump up any cash to keep the Black Cab alive.

But now the Chinese motoring press are reporting that Geely are planning to buy up the 80 per cent of Manganese Bronze they don’t own from the administrators Which, on the face of it, looks an odd decision taken the woeful – if iconic – state of the London Black Cab business.

But the reality is probably that Geely are less interested in keeping the Black Cab alive than using Manganese Bronze as a stepping stone in to the UK market.

Last year we reported that Geely were planning to enter the UK car market with their Emgrand range of cars, using Manganese Bronze to establish a dealer network and provide after-sales. Geely and MB were aiming for between 30 and 40 dealerships to handle sales of the Emgrand 7, and were pitching former Rover dealers with the plan.

That plan was obviously stymied by the problems at Manganese Bronze, so perhaps Geely think it simpler to buy up MB and continue with their plans to build a franchise network for Geely that way than start again from scratch?

Sadly, we can’t see this development making much difference to the future of the London Taxi.

Read more: http://www.carsuk.net/

Dec 31

Freedom of Information Act statistics show up 82 offences

Possession of drugs, assault and fraud are just some of the criminal convictions held by taxi drivers currently working in St Albans.

Statistics gathered under the Freedom of Information Act show the district’s 552 taxi drivers have 82 criminal offences between them – however, it is not known how many drivers are affected.

Convictions date back to 1980, with the most recent in March 2011. Twelve of the offences were for assault, including ABH and GBH, some of which led to jail terms of more than a year.

Threatening, abusive and insulting language led to a further four criminal convictions with another driver receiving a caution for “racially or religiously aggravated” comments.

There were also four drugs related offences. Two drivers have appeared in court for possessing offensive weapons, one a blade, in a public place.

A driver was also given a caution for soliciting for immoral purposes in connection with the Sexual Offences Act 1956.

Several thefts also appeared on the list with 11 convictions from shoplifting to taking a conveyance without authority. Three drivers were also sentenced for handling stolen goods.

A number of licence holders currently hold criminal convictions for driving related offences including failing to report an accident, driving while disqualified and speeding. Five drivers have appeared in court for driving without a licence.

St Albans District Council has the job of deciding which applicants should receive licences. A policy was introduced in 2008 to set out how the council should deal with convictions and cautions when considering granting, renewing, suspending and revoking licences.

The council has just finished a consultation into a revised conviction policy for taxi licences, which aims to put the details into plainer English so it can be easily understood.

According to the council’s existing policy: “Having a previous or current conviction should not necessarily prevent them from obtaining a hackney carriage or private hire licence.

“A person who has committed an offence and who is made to wait for a rehabilitation period to lapse prior to their application being accepted, is more likely to value their licence and act accordingly.

“However, there are certain offences considered so serious that they will usually prevent a person obtaining or keeping a licence.”

Claire Wainwright, a spokesman from the council, said: “Our policy is to consider the safety, protection and well-being of the public and to ensure all licensed drivers are safe, competent drivers who maintain their vehicles to an acceptable standard.

“When we are considering whether or not to issue a licence we consider all convictions.

“No conviction is considered as spent; all must be declared and all are considered. Our main aim when considering past convictions is to ensure public safety.

“The council considers each application for a taxi licence on its own merits, as we are required by law to do. Legislation states that the council may grant a licence only if it is satisfied that the person is fit and proper.”

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

Dec 19

Firms warned about rules by council

COUNCIL bosses in Tewkesbury borough say a successful prosecution shows they are serious about enforcing taxi and minicab regulations.

The borough council took minicab driver Daren Cook to court for allowing an unlicensed person to drive his cab in Tewkesbury.

Cook was fined by Cheltenham magistrates as, although he was a licensed minicab operator with a licensed minicab, he allowed someone to drive it who was not licensed to do so.

After the case, the council said it would continue to crack down on rule breaches in order to protect the public.

Its lead member for community development, Councillor Sue Hillier-Richardson said: “Our private hire drivers are required to meet high standards to hold a licence, which includes extensive background checks, and we take this responsibility very seriously for the sake of our residents’ safety

“Our advice to members of the public is to only use licensed vehicles, which will always have a licence plate with the council’s logo, and all licensed drivers should display a photo ID.

“If anyone has any concerns about a private hire vehicle they have used, I encourage them to get in touch with the council.”

The court heard that Cook, of Fairway, Northway, Tewkesbury, committed the offence during this year’s medieval festival on July 14. The 45-year-old provided a shuttle service between the Gloucester Road event and the nearby Lower Lode Inn.

Although he used a licensed private hire vehicle, he used an unlicensed driver without the correct insurance – Mathew Bridgwater, 25, from Worcester.

Following complaints from other taxi drivers, the council investigated. Both men admitted that Bridgwater had driven the vehicle belonging to Cook, at Cook’s request.

Magistrates fined Cook £200 and ordered him to pay a £15 victim surcharge and £200 costs.

Bridgwater was convicted of using a vehicle without the appropriate insurance plan being in place. He was fined £100, ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge and £100 costs.

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

Dec 19

Private hire driver fined

A minicab driver who picked up a plain clothed police officer in Peterborough has been fined at court.

Private hire driver Mohammed Zia Afzal (45) of Thistlemoor Road, Peterborough picked up the officer in September, during an undercover operation.

Yesterday Afzal appeared at Peterborough Magistrates Court where he pleaded guilty to unlawfully plying for hire and driving with no insurance.

He was fined £100, ordered tp pay costs of £150 and a victim surcharge of £15. He was also given six points on his licence.

The court heard that during the operation in September, plain clothed police officers targeted private hire vehicles parking outside local supermarkets and other public places, to establish if any of the drivers would pick up customers without a booking. If passengers are picked up by a private hire car without a pre-booking, the driver commits an offence and the insurance is usually invalidated.

Officers posing as shoppers left Morrisons on Lincoln Road and approached Afzal’s private hire vehicle which was parked outside. They asked him to take them to Bretton and he agreed. On reaching the destination they identified themselves and were met at the location by members of the city council’s licensing team.

Ian Robinson, Taxi Enforcement Officer at Peterborough City Council, said: “The operation took place following alleged reports of private hire drivers illegally ranking without bookings outside local supermarkets. Although these venues may have an agreement with a particular private hire firm, in order for any journey to be legal, it must have been booked in advance.

“If a private hire driver picks up a passenger without a booking, it is a real safety issue. The insurance is generally invalidated, and from a personal safety point of view there is no record of that journey.”

Councillor Peter Hiller, Cabinet Member for Housing, Neighbourhoods and Planning, said: “Licensing officers continually monitor the taxi trade to protect the interest and safety of passengers and will not hesitate to prosecute any private hire driver who is found to be unlawfully plying for hire or ‘flagging’ as it is known in the trade.

“The law makes a clear distinction between a Hackney Carriage that can be legally stopped in the street and private hire cars that must be pre-booked.”

http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/

Dec 15

SALFORD COUNCIL BLACK CAB NEGLECT

30% BLACK CAB INCREASE WITH NO NEW RANKS SAY DRIVERS

Since deregulation of Salford’s hackney carriages three years ago, there’s been a thirty per cent increase in cabs but no proper new ranks. Now, with the old Salford Precinct rank closed and an unsuitable replacement `horseshoe’ rank in place, drivers are going public with their concerns

It’s a wet Monday morning and cabs are semi circling around a new, horseshoe shaped rank in no-man’s land at the far end of what used to be Pendleton Way, between the huge new Tesco and Salford Precinct.

No-one’s walking to the cabs, the rank being too far from Tesco to cart shopping, and almost out of sight of most shoppers on the Precinct. So the black cabs queue, waiting to get the word that one of the three cabs that are allowed to rank at Tesco’s entrance has moved off and another can take its place.

The three cab rank came about only after disabled people complained at the original Council planning meeting for the Tesco store that they needed easy access to black cabs for wheelchairs and such. So now three cabs can wait at the entrance but those left at the horseshoe can’t see when one is moving off. To say that the drivers are unimpressed with the new horseshoe rank would be an understatement…

“People can’t get to it and can’t see it” says driver Stuart Ryan “There’s not one finger sign within this Precinct saying where the rank is. They just shut the old one at the old Tesco and gave us this, which isn’t even big enough for the cabs that were there.”

When the old rank shut in late November, the drivers had to make their own signs pointing to the new rank, although the Council has now put a knee high crumpled yellow sign in place. The drivers say that this is indicative of Salford Council’s attitude.

“Three years ago there were 79 black cabs in Salford, and just enough work to go round” says one “Now they’ve deregulated us and there’s 105 black cabs but only two working ranks – here and Eccles. What are they doing for us?”

He points out that to run a hackney carriage for a week costs a driver around £400 in rental, fuel, tax and insurance before he’s even taken any fares… “In 17 years driving I’ve not seen any new taxi ranks, all I’ve seen is work being taken away from us but it’s people’s livelihoods. Salford Council has meetings but you can’t go unless you’re invited. We can’t get in. I think they’re frightened in case we speak up. But we do need to speak up…”

Council figures show that there’s 178 drivers currently working on 105 black cabs, with a further 1330 private hire drivers working 924 vehicles. At virtually all of the new developments in Salford, the private hire firms have free phones within the buildings.

“We don’t have a problem with the private hire vehicles and free phones but give the customer the choice” says Stuart Ryan “We did get a rank on Media City but the work comes mainly off our radios as there are not many walkers because it’s in the wrong location, around the corner from the hotel. We’re told to move on if we park near it because it’s private land. On Media City there’s not one sign pointing to the taxi ranks. How are people supposed to find them when there’s no signs pointing to where they are?”

When Salford Council deregulated the taxis three years ago, there were two main reasons – that there would be more demand and more work, particularly at MediaCityUK, and that outlying areas of Salford would be better served…

“At Walkden, the biggest Tesco in Europe, there’s no rank” Stuart explains “We had a two cab rank there before but they built right over it. The new ASDA at Swinton has no rank in the plans. We had a nine month fight to get a rank at the Salford City Stadium but it’s still not painted or signed. Three years down the line, and Irlam still hasn’t got a rank. What’s the Council doing for us? Nothing

“I believe this Council told us before they de-regged us that they would put ranks into place for the cabs that were coming on” he adds “We’ve now got a 30% increase in cabs and, as far as I’m concerned, there’s no ranks in place for these cabs to go and stand. There’s only two working cab ranks in Salford, one at Eccles Cross and this one at the Precinct.”

And, since the deregulation that was supposed to bring in new work, hackney carriage drivers say that takings are fifty per cent down. If Stuart had a Christmas message for Salford Council what would it be?

“You need to get off your behinds and come and enforce what you need to do in Salford, and give us Salford hackney carriage drivers what we need” he decides “We’re public transport, let the public see us! And let the public use us!”

Almost a month ago the Salford Star asked Salford Council for a comment on the lack of ranks and the loss of income following deregulation. Salford Council has not responded.

source: http://www.salfordstar.com/article.asp?id=1623

Dec 15

Northampton drivers win battle against unsafe taxis

Taxi drivers have won a battle over proposed rules that could have seen an influx of old, unsafe vehicles into Northampton.

Drivers had protested at plans to scrap the three-year rule, which currently means taxis have to be less than 36 months old when brought into service.

They feared loosening the rules would open the door to unscrupulous drivers who picked up a vehicle cheaply.

Members of Northampton Borough Council’s licensing committee changed the plan after passionate representations by drivers at a meeting this week.

But the compromise still means taxis aged up to five years old can start working in the town after 2015.

Jonathan Hills, the secretary of the Northampton Hackney Drivers Association (NHDA), said: “Relaxing the rules on older taxis will attract drivers from other towns who can pick up a £500 vehicle somewhere. It increases the number of drivers trying to make a living out of passengers in town.”

The association argued that numbers of passengers had fallen, as will the number of rank spaces at their busiest pick-up point, Northampton train station, when building work starts.

With drivers paying off debts on their new cars, they would have to work longer hours, making them potentially dangerous, Mr Hills said.

He instead wanted five years’ grace for Northampton drivers to pay off vehicles already purchased on credit.

But senior licensing officers, advising the committee, said a car’s age was not the best indicator of its safety, as new cars could develop faults because of high mileage, whereas older cars driven carefully could still be safe.

They said the council’s proposals to monitor tyre treads and do more frequent tests were more reliable measures.

After the drivers had spoken, councillors went into private session then decided to amend the NHDA’s request.

Mr Hills wanted the age limits staggered until 2017, but the councillors’ offer of a three-year period was still greeted with applause.

Councillors said they had been persuaded by passenger safety concerns.

Terry Wire (Lab, St James) said: “The last thing we want is some £500 cab aged about 15 years old coming up from London and picking up people here.

“The whole reason for this committee is to look after the welfare of passengers, and getting rid of an age limit would not serve that purpose,” Councillor Wire added.

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

Dec 14

Faulty steering on London black cabs now fixed

Administrators for Manganese Bronze, which went into administration in October after taxi sales were suspended, said that all 401 vehicles were now back on the road.

More than 400 taxis that were recalled due to faulty steering have been fixed, two months after they were taken off the road owing to safety fears.

The recall by taxi maker Manganese Bronze led to its collapse into administration in October after sales of the faulty vehicles were suspended.

Negotiations to find a buyer continue, and 12 production staff who were laid off have been re-employed to fit the new steering boxes.

The company’s administrators, PricewaterhouseCoopers, said all 401 cabs were back on the road and workers at its Coventry production line will start to fix the 600 largely new and unregistered vehicles affected.

However, 99 of 176 employees were made redundant following the appointment of the administrators.

Matthew Hammond, PwC partner and joint administrator, said he was delighted the taxis were now repaired. He added: “Although it’s too early to say definitively, we are hopeful that we will sell the business as a going concern.”

The second phase of fixing the remaining taxis should be completed by the end of February and at a faster rate than the first 401, because most are in the single location on the production line.

It took the company, which built its first black cab in 1948, nearly a month to find a solution to the steering box issues on its TX4 models and another month to fix the vehicles affected.

source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/

Dec 13

Hereford Taxi Driver Sentenced To 13 Years For Serious Sexual Assault

Nikolay Hristov – highly dangerous

A taxi driver who carried out a serious sexual assault on a woman in the back of his car in Hereford has today (Thursday, 13 December) been sentenced to at least 13 years in jail.

Nikolay Hristov, aged 35 (08/08/1977), of Ross Road, Hereford, will only be eligible for release when he has served the prison term handed to him and has been assessed by the parole service to be of minimal risk.

He will also remain on the sex offenders register for life and will face deportation on his release from prison.

Hristov – a Bulgarian national – was arrested following a report that a local woman in her 20s had been assaulted in the early hours of 27 January.

The woman got into Hristov’s taxi on Commercial Street at around 1.30am with a female friend, following a night out in the city centre. Hristov dropped off the friend on Grandstand Road before continuing the journey to the woman’s home address to the north west of the city.

Hristov then pulled into a lane off the Kings Acre Road where he assaulted the woman in the back of his car before dropping her off at home. A few hours later, the woman told her friend what had happened and the matter was reported to the police.

Detectives from Hereford CID launched a major investigation and specially trained officers worked with the victim to support her.

Following an extensive examination of the city’s CCTV, officers were able to locate the woman and identify the taxi she and her friend had got into. Hristov was arrested on 1 February and was later charged with assault by penetration.

After an eight day trial at Hereford Crown Court, His Honour Judge Toby Hooper QC sentenced Hristov to a minimum of 13 years in prison calling him a ‘dangerous and calculated offender’. Judge Hooper also commended the police for their ‘meticulous investigation’.

Detective Inspector Martyn Barnes led the investigation into the operation to find the woman’s attacker and bring him to justice. He said the sentence reflected the seriousness of the case: “This was an appalling offence where Hristov, as a taxi driver, was in a position of trust – a position he abused in the most horrendous and predatory manner.

“Hristov is a highly dangerous individual who preyed on a particularly vulnerable female, the circumstances of which were some of the most horrendous that my officers have had to investigate.

“I would like to pay tribute to the enormous courage displayed by the victim. This crime has had a devastating impact on her life and her loved ones. She continues to struggle to come to terms with what occurred, made worse by Histrov who lied and attempted to deceive investigators by maintaining his innocence throughout and forcing his victim to relive her ordeal at court.

“She has remained dignified and resolute throughout this process, motivated by the fact she would be preventing other women from becoming his victims.

“I would like to thank the victim for her enormous courage and the trust she has placed in the justice system. I would also like to thank the public for their assistance in this inquiry, and the officers for their persistence, dedication and professionalism in ensuring this dangerous offender was brought to justice.”

http://www.westmercia.police.uk/news/

Dec 13

Austerity measures play part in taxi death?

TAXI drivers are urging council chiefs to turn streetlights back on at night following the death of a teenager in Leamington – less than a week after the start of the controversial cost-cutting switch-off.

Archie Wellbelove was killed on Friday morning (December 7) after being hit by a taxi while walking out of Leamington on the Kenilworth Road around 3.45am.

Cash-strapped Warwickshire County Council took the decision to switch off streetlights in certain areas from midnight until 5.30am in a bid to save £500,000 a year. The council’s ruling Tories pushed through the plans in October, just days after revealing they planned to bring forward the switch-off in Warwick district by four months to December 1.

The owner of the taxi firm whose driver was involved in the crash – in which the 18-year-old Warwick University student died – branded the move “completely irresponsible”.

Dil Ramzan, of Leamington-based My Taxis, said: “The council have made a howling error. They are implementing cost-cutting measures that put the public at risk. As taxi drivers we simply cannot see anything on the roads any more and this is extremely worrying for both drivers and passengers.

“I’ve been driving for 16 years and I actually fear driving around the town now as people step into the road without even thinking about it.

“Before we could at least see people but now our peripheral vision has been taken away. Both taxi drivers and the public are petrified at night now and the council have no justification to risk their personal safety like this – it’s completely irresponsible.

“The streetlights should be on in the hours of darkness regardless of cost – after all, what is the cost of a life?

“Someone with a bright future has died within the first week of the council turning the lights off. Surely that says something?”

Police even had to get the council to switch-on the streetlights so they could find Mr Wellbelove’s body following the accident near the roundabout and the turn off to Stoneleigh.

Liberal Democrat county councillors pushed in vain for a delay to the switch-off until the new year, and the group’s transport and highways spokesman, Coun David Johnston, reiterated their concerns this week.

He said: “To implement such a change in December is reckless. We have grave concerns about it.

“Christmas and New Year are the busiest periods of the year for late night revellers, often making their way home on foot.”

A spokesman from Warwickshire County Council said they were unable to comment during the police investigation.

He added: “We have always said we would be flexible and switch lights back on in areas if requested by the emergency services and we did so in this case immediately.”

Read more:http://leamingtonobserver.co.uk/

Dec 12

District council prosecutes driver over Stansted Airport drop-off

UTTLESFORD District Council has prosecuted a man for acting as an illegal taxi at Stansted Airport.

Michael Fisher, from Hatfield Garden Village, was found guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court of using a vehicle with no driver, vehicle or operator’s licence.

He was fined £250 and was ordered to pay £450 costs and also pay a victim surcharge of £15.

On May 24 this year, the council’s enforcement officers were carrying out stop checks on vehicles arriving at Stansted Airport, working in partnership with the police.

A car stopped and dropped off a passenger and the enforcement officer became suspicious because of the way the driver was acting.

After leaving the scene, the driver was stopped by the police and cautioned by the council officers for not having the appropriate private hire licences. The driver claimed that his licence plate and badge were both at home.

Fisher had previously been licensed by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, but this had lapsed.

Following the case, heard on November 20, Uttlesford District Council’s cabinet member for community safety, Councillor Alastair Walters, said: “It is inexcusable to operate a taxi service in this way. Licensing requirements are there for a reason. They are to protect the public and keep them safe. This particular driver had no regard for his passengers at all.”

He went on to say: “If anyone wishes to use a taxi, they can easily check if both the vehicle and driver are licensed. Most taxis will have a licence plate attached to them, giving details of the vehicle and expiry date of the licence. Drivers will also carry an identification badge. There is also a list on the council’s website www.uttlesford.gov.uk

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

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