Former European Commissioner joins Uber policy board

Car-booking service Uber has appointed a former vice-president of the European Commission to its new public policy board.

Nellie Kroes spent 11 years with the European Union’s executive body as commissioner for competition and also head of its Digital Agenda initiative.

The board will advise the company on its global expansion and held its first meeting earlier this week.

In office, Ms Kroes criticised attempts to ban Uber in some European countries.

In 2014, she said he was “outraged” by a decision in a Brussels court to stop its drivers working in the city.

“This decision is not about protecting or helping passengers – it’s about protecting a taxi cartel,” she wrote on her official European Commission blog.

Others appointed to the board include Roberto Daniño, the former prime minister of Peru, ex-US secretary of transportation Ray LaHood and Allan Fels. previously chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission,

A spokesman for Uber told the BBC the board members were chosen because of their experience in public policy affecting the company and mix of nationalities.

“As Uber continues to expand globally and introduce innovative products, we’re encountering novel policy issues at the intersection of technology, transportation and competition,” the spokesman said.

“We know we don’t have all the answers and we’re excited to get guidance from this group of experienced leaders.”

The company’s international expansion has been followed by objections from taxi operators and governments.

In London, protests took place in January this year because black cab drivers said the service was “unfair competition”, although the city’s transport authority, Transport for London, disagreed. In France, the government intervened to close a version of the app following nationwide protests by taxi drivers last summer.

Uber’s chief advisor David Plouffe said the company believed car-booking apps would form a part of transport networks worldwide and the new public policy group would offer advice on the challenges the company faces.

“Uber has a reputation for getting straight to the point (sometimes a little too quickly) and we want their feedback to be equally direct,” he said.

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

Uber private-hire first-timer shocked when fare is FOUR times what she normally pays

Nicole Owen and her invoice

The Manchester Evening News reports that Nicole Owens, from Worsley, was left furious by the whopping £67 charge – which even included a £15 discount – but has now got a full refund thanks to the MEN

A party of young women from Salford were charged almost SEVENTY pounds for a minicab from Manchester to Tyldesley by controversial firm Uber.

Nicole Owens, 25, from Boothstown, Worsley, said her and three other friends had been partying in trendy Northern Quarter bar Hula till about 3.30am on Bank Holiday Monday morning when they wanted to get a car home.

They eventually got an Uber minicab – but were left shocked at the final bill – which even included a £15 DISCOUNT.

Now only after the M.E.N. took on her case have Uber agreed to a full refund.

The group were taken back to Ellenbrook, then Boothstown, then Tyldesley, and then back to Worsley village.

Nicole said: “We couldn’t get a taxi at all.

“There were none about, so my friend said I should download the Uber app because they have a promotion on where you get £15 off your first order so we thought it would end up costing £20 at most.”

Nursery nurse Nicole said that she installed the app and set up an account.

She added: “It asked for my card details and I put all my details in and the promotion code to get my £15 off.”

Without the £15 promotional discount the fare would have been £82.49.

A breakdown of the charges is clearly shown on the receipt, and states that the normal price for the ride would have been £30.55, but the ‘surge’ was charged at £51.94, bringing the price to £82.49 before the £15 discount.

Under-fire

The app-based taxi service has come under fire before for its ‘surge’ charges that mean the busier it gets, the more it will cost.

And according to Nicole the taxi arrived within 60 seconds, suggesting to her that the firm wasn’t busy.

Nicole said: “Friends had told me they could be expensive.

“I understood that they have a surge charge which means they can charge more when they’re in high demand, but I never thought it would be 80 pounds. I couldn’t believe it when I got the notification when I got in.”

Nicole said that she was not offered an opportunity to reject the surge charge. She said: “It didn’t give us a price at all. We didn’t accept anything about a high demand.”

But a spokesman told the M.E.N. that the new pricing model is ‘very clear’ for customers and that they are asked to confirm the pricing multiplier in the app two times before they book a trip.

However they offered a full refund to Nicole after the M.E.N. contacted them.

A spokesman for Uber told the M.E.N.: “The pricing is made very clear to the user when they book: Open the app, the uberX option will be marked with a thunderbolt to represent that dynamic pricing is in effect.

“Once you select the uberX option, there is a confirmation screen that notifies the user that the pricing is at 2.7 x the normal rate, users have to confirm with an “I accept” button.

“Following this, the rider is required to manually type in the numbers 2 and 7 to re-confirm that they understand.

“We understand that for new riders, this pricing model is different so our policy is to adjust the trip to the normal fare for the first time.”

source: Manchester Evening News

Rotherham CSE Survivors Want Tougher Taxi Licensing

Heart Radio reports that victims of child sexual exploitation from Rotherham want councils across the country to use their experiences to prevent other young people being abused.

The Rotherham abuse steering group is built of survivors and family members created in the wake of the Rotherham abuse scandal.

They’ve put together a national plan to help prevent and reduce CSE.

Part of the plan covers licensing policies including taxi licensing to make it safer for all passengers and drivers.

It’s because, in some cases, drivers have been involved in CSE, with victims being trafficked across the country in taxis.

As a group, they have been advising and working along side Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council to put their licensing suggestions in place with effect from July 2016.

They are also contacting all councils throughout the UK to put their suggestions in place, because they claim it will help reduce all forms of crime, as well as CSE.

The full list of recommendations for taxi licensing is below:

 

  1. All taxis to be installed with CCTV and audio devices.
  2. All taxis to be installed with tracking devices
  3. All taxis to be installed with shield glass separating the driver from passengers
  4. All children to travel in the back seat
  5. Taxi drivers to use the vehicle for work purposes only and not for personal use
  6. All drivers to be enhanced DBS checked
  7. All drivers to report to base when not carrying a fare
  8. Cars should only be used by the registered driver.
  9. National data base to respond to intelligence as well as evidence against all taxi drivers
  10. Regular, random drug tests on all drivers
  11. Training in CSE awareness and reporting for all drivers
  12. Mandatory for owner of company to keep correct complaints procedure
  13. All job vacancies for staff to go through job centre

Read more at: Heart Radio

South Lanarkshire Council boss disciplined over taxi contracts awarded to his nephew

The Sunday Herald reports that a senior employee at South Lanarkshire Council has been disciplined after an investigation into over £200,000 of taxi contracts awarded to his nephew.

Peter Henry, who was the election agent for Labour’s deputy leader on the local authority, has been given a written warning following a seven-month probe by auditors.

The Sunday Herald revealed in September that Henry, the council’s passenger services coordinator, had been suspended after an anonymous complaint was lodged.

His job was to oversee transport provision for citizens referred by the education and social work departments.

The complaint centred on payments for taxi services to his nephew Stephen McGhee, who according to the council’s website was awarded around £210,000 since 2013.

The contracts were made via a framework agreement and the individual deals were worth £32,300, £51,244, £19,000, £24,320, £18,300, £31,720, £18,056 and £15,288.

The council’s internal investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing by Henry, but it is understood the local authority believes the family link meant he should not have been involved in the awards.

Henry was given a warning and it is also understood his duties will be re-aligned.

After Henry was initially suspended, this newspaper also revealed the links he and McGhee had to Labour in South Lanarkshire.

Henry was lined up to run deputy council leader Jackie Burns’ Holyrood election campaign, but this never materialised after Burns resigned the candidacy last year.

A leaked email also revealed that Henry and McGhee organised a dinner for Burns on council premises in 2015: “Peter Henry and Stephen McGhee have organised a fundraising dinner dance in the Banqueting Hall at Council Offices, Almada St., Hamilton on Friday, 27th Feb. at 7pm, in aid of next year’s Scottish Parliament election fund.

“This is primarily aimed at a target audience of supporters beyond the Party membership, but any members who would like to come would be very welcome.”

It is also understood that McGhee attended a meeting with a PR company last year about creating a website for Burns’ campaign.

According to Companies House, McGhee is the director of various companies. There is no also suggestion of wrongdoing by Burns or McGhee.

Christina McKelvie, who is standing for the SNP in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse for the Holyrood election, said: “Not a year goes by that we don’t see yet another scandal at South Lanarkshire Council. The Council needs to examine very urgently how it manages the procurement of services, planning procedures, contracts and more.

“For a Labour-led Council to regard it as perfectly acceptable to award over £200,000 on taxi contracts to a family member is obviously unacceptable.

“The structural advantage the party once had is in smithereens and councillors are now being repeatedly exposed to a very angry public.”

Graham Simpson, a Tory councillor who is also standing in the Holyrood election, said: “My understanding is that this was the subject of a quite forensic internal investigation, which has resulted in disciplinary action being taken. Councils need to ensure they are whiter than white. Sometimes external investigators should be brought in but I am satisfied this is the end of the matter in this case.”

John Wilson, who is contesting the Holyrood election for the Scottish Greens, said: “This case highlights the need for independent scrutiny of council contracts, especially where there are clear conflicts in the awarding of contracts to friends and family.”

A spokesman for South Lanarkshire council said: “I can confirm that disciplinary proceedings have been completed. However, it would be inappropriate to comment further on a personnel matter of this nature.”

McGhee could not be reached.

source: The Sunday Herald

Sex offenders among those who applied for taxi licences in Burton and South Derbyshire

PAEDOPHILES, burglars and a kidnapper were among those who applied to become taxi drivers across East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire.

Figures from the Disclosure and Barring Service show that between 2012 and 2015, 2,890 disclosure orders were applied for.

Anyone applying to become a licence holder of a private hire vehicle or a hackney carriage must have a check carried out by the DBS which they must present as part of their application.

From the applications made, more than 17 per cent were found to have a conviction; 514 applicants in total with 2,003 convictions, cautions or reprimands between them.

Offences include indecent assault on a female under the age of 14, sexual intercourse with a female under the age of 16 and kidnapping.

There was also a host of driving offences including not wearing a seatbelt and driving while disqualified.

Policies from East Staffordshire Borough Council and South Derbyshire District Council mirror one another with major offences such as sexual assault or violence leaving it ‘unlikely’ that a licence will be accepted.

A spokesman from South Derbyshire District Council said: “Our main priority is protecting the public and making South Derbyshire a safe place to be. A full DBS check is required for all new drivers applying to us for a licence and the law requires that this check must be renewed every three years. Drivers are required to notify us of any new convictions they may have.

“The council’s policy is that when anyone with a previous criminal conviction applies for a private hire licence, the case is referred to the Licensing and Appeals Sub-Committee.

“Our private hire licensing policy, which can be viewed on our website, is then applied in each individual case to inform prior to any decision made.”

The DBS is not able to state whether any of the individuals were employed as that decision is down to the local authority.

A spokesman from East Staffordshire Borough Council said: “Following the appropriate legislation the general licensing committee consider whether the applicant is a fit and proper person.

“Each case must be dealt with on its own merits. The committee follow Home Office guidance for particular offences and periods free from conviction will be taken into account.

“The principal objective for the licensing authority is the safety and protection of the public.”

Read more: Burton Mail

Mar 30

MEN: Trafford taxi licensing officers suspended in ‘cash-for-cab-licences’ probe

Two town hall taxi licensing officers have been suspended in a ‘cash-for-cab-licences’ probe.

The pair – who work for Trafford council – were suspended this week after a formal complaint from within the trade, the M.E.N. understands.

It is believed the town hall probe relates to payments allegedly made by applicants who had failed part of the application process. It is believed the investigation has been ongoing for several weeks. Police are also investigating whether any criminal activity has taken place.

A licence for either a black cab or private-hire vehicle costs £128. Drivers must prove they are fit and proper to drive a taxi, including passing a police criminal records check and a medical. All potential drivers are also meant to pass the ‘knowledge’ test – a rigorous series of questions based on their memory of Trafford’s roads.

The council has passed details of its investigation to detectives at Trafford CID.

A council spokesman said: “Two members of staff from the council’s licensing team have been suspended to allow an investigation to be conducted in accordance with the council’s procedures. Because this is an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate for us to provide any further details at this stage.”

A police spokesman said: “Greater Manchester Police has been contacted by Trafford council about an ongoing investigation they are carrying out.

source: http://menmedia.co.uk/

Mar 30

Man punched and spat at Lincoln taxi driver following drunken rant

A Lincoln man has been found guilty of assault following a drunken rant at a taxi driver.

John Drysdale punched and spat at Izatullah Ehsani after drinking between eight and 10 pints of lager on a night out playing pool.

The assault happened following a disagreement over the fare.

Lincoln Magistrates’ Court was told how the taxi was stopped on university bridge where Mr Ehsani told Drysdale to leave the car if he was going to continue to be abusive.

A fellow taxi driver spotted the altercation and followed Mr Ehsani to the corner of Skellingthorpe Road and Highfield Avenue where the assault took place.

Drysdale, 42, of Highfield Avenue, Lincoln, admitted spitting at the driver but denied throwing a punch.

Prosecuting, Edward Johnson said: “As soon as you got in the taxi you were abusive and aggressive towards Mr Ehsani.

“You punched him as you got out the taxi and spat in his face through the open window on the driver’s side once you had got out.”

Drysdale, who had pleaded not guilty to both assault by beating and racially aggravated assault, was convicted following a trial on March 8.

He was acquitted of the racially aggravated charge.

When delivering the verdict, Chair of the bench John East said: “From the evidence of Mr Ehsani and listening to the recording of the 999 call, we can not find a racial element to this assault.

“However, we believe there was a punch thrown.”

Drysdale was fined £175 and ordered to pay compensation of £100, a contribution to costs of £150 and a victims surcharge of £15.

http://www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk

Mar 30

Drunk yob attacked cabbie and partner

A FATHER punched a taxi driver in a row over a £7 fare and then butted his partner.

Shane Liddell was already drunk when he got in a taxi in Hanley for a £7 or £8 fare to St Nicholas Avenue, in Norton.

But after arriving in Norton the 26-year-old punched the driver rather than pay the fare.

Amy Jacobs, prosecuting, told Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court: “He punched him, making contact with the top of his lip.

“He punched him a second time making contact with his face.

“The driver tried to punch back to get him to stop attacking him.

“He noticed the taxi had begun to roll backwards. He managed to stop the movement. The defendant was still punching him.

“But the driver managed to open the door behind Liddell and pushed him so he fell out.”

The driver drove off to the top of the road and after three or four minutes he went back and saw the defendant go into a flat.

Miss Jacobs said Liddell was stood by the window shouting: “I am going to kill you.”

The driver, who suffered grazing and tenderness to the right side of his face, jaw and lip and a pain to his neck, called police.

The court heard Liddell’s partner asked him what had gone on and he told her to shut up.

Miss Jacobs added: “He punched the living room door with both hands.

“A child came into the living room upset. His partner told him to calm down.

“He moved into the kitchen, punching and kicking the kitchen door.

“She decided to call the taxi firm to complain about what she had seen. The defendant snatched the phone. He was abusive and threw the phone in the kitchen.

“The defendant asked her for money, she refused and he verbally abused her and pulled her hair. He butted her to the right side of her head. She threw money at him to try to get him to leave her alone.”

The court heard Liddell noticed the phone had a cracked screen and threw it at a mirror, smashing it.

His partner, who was left with soreness to her head, left her home with her two children.

Liddell, of Chetwynd Street, Smallthorne, pleaded guilty to two charges of assault and criminal damage on November 5. He was in breach of a suspended sentence order for an assault.

Angela Berrisford, mitigating, urged Recorder Patrick Thompson to pass a non-custodial sentence.

“His level of intoxication led him to misunderstand the situation,” she said.

“He is genuinely ashamed. This is an isolated incident.”

Recorder Thompson sentenced Liddell to six months in prison, suspended for two years, with 12 months’ supervision, structured intervention to address domestic abuse issues for 60 days, eight sessions at Adsis (Alcohol and drug services in Staffordshire) and 240 hours’ unpaid work. He must also pay £200 compensation and £300 costs.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” said Recorder Thompson. “Men who hit women are always regarded as the lowest of the low, it is the ultimate act of cowardice. You behaved like a drunken yob.”

http://www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk/

Mar 30

Taxi Driver Assaulted In Milton Keynes

Thames Valley Police is appealing for information after a taxi driver was assaulted in Milton Keynes on Monday, 19th March.

The 38-year-old taxi driver picked up a fare at the Wavendon Gate Cricket Club and drove him to Lindores Croft, in Monkston, arriving there at about 3.20pm.

Enroute the passenger told the driver that he did not have the cash to pay for the journey, and that he would need to get the money when he arrived at his destination.

On arrival at Lindores Croft, the passenger got into an argument with the driver. At this time the driver became aware of two men outside his vehicle.

One of these men has reached through the driver’s open window, and snatched the keys from the ignition.

The driver got out of the car and proceeded to call his firm, when he was assaulted by the three men, who knocked him to the floor and repeatedly kicked him before walking off in the direction of the Kingston estate.

The passenger is described as black, aged between 18 and 20 years old, 5ft 3ins with an average build. He was wearing a green baseball cap, a grey jumper and was holding some sort of bag.

The other two men were also black, around the same age, both were 6ft or taller and wore baseball caps.

PC James Punter said: “The driver wasn’t seriously injured in the assault, but did sustain bruising to his body and head.

“I would urge anyone with information about this incident to come forward and speak to us as soon as possible. Were you in the Lindores Croft area on Monday afternoon? Did you see these men?”

Anyone with information should contact PC Punter via the 24-hour Thames Valley Police Enquiry Line on 101.

If you don’t want to speak directly to the police you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

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

Mar 29

News Statement

ST 1395

29 March 2012

For Immediate Release

 

Suspension of licensing team staff

 

Two members of staff from the Council’s Licensing Team have been suspended to allow an investigation to be conducted in accordance with the Council’s procedures. Because this is an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate for us to provide any further details at this stage.

 

Alison Klabacher, Trafford Council, Communications Unit, 0161 912 4080.

 

Trafford, a value for money Council delivering excellent services for our customers. You can find out more about us by visiting www.trafford.gov.uk

Mar 29

Ottawa: Tradeable licenses for accessible taxis gets thumbs up, Committee endorses changes to bylaw

A city committee endorsed a plan that could see about 100 holders of accessible taxi plates garner a six-figure selling price for their cab licences.

Changing the taxi licensing system to allow just over 100 plate owners to sell, trade or lease their taxi plates for wheelchair-accessible cabs would boost the plates’ street value to between $100,000 and $330,000 – high prices that holders of the limited number of standard taxi licences recently fetched for their non-accessible cab plates.

Committee member Rainer Bloess, councillor for Innes Ward, compared the change to giving accessible cab license holders a lottery ticket with a guaranteed win.

The accessible taxi licences, which were issued by the city to provide transportation for people with mobility challenges such as wheelchairs, were originally not meant to be sold or traded.

But opening up the rules for accessible cab licences was part of a suite of changes the city’s community and protective service committee approved to the taxi bylaw, which the city uses to regulate the industry. The vote was 5-1, with only veteran Coun. Diane Holmes voting against the proposals. Council will have the final vote in April.

The city issues licences for a variety of businesses, including food carts, snow plow operators and more, but taxi licences are the only ones issued by the city that are transferable, meaning they can be resold.

There are a total of 1,001 standard plates and 173 accessible plates in service, which fits the ratio of one taxi for every 784 residents in the urban regulated area, as mandated by city council. No new plates will be issued until the need increases, and any new taxi licences would be for accessible cabs only.

Hanif Patni, president of the company that owns Blue Line, Capital and DJ’s cabs – Coventry Connections – was careful to remain neutral about the windfall he could see if the cheaper accessible licenses suddenly became saleable.

Patni and other industry stakeholders had been consulted on the changes, but Sue Jones, manager of the emergency services department that oversees taxi regulation, said the changes weren’t of enough interest to the general public to warrant public consultation.

The lack of consultation was just one of the issues Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans bemoaned during the March 22 meeting. Deans, former chairwoman of that committee, said the proposed changes would mark a step back from the taxi reforms she oversaw during the last form of council.

“We regulate this industry for consumer protection and health and safety of the public … and it seems the public hasn’t been consulted on this,” Deans said. “I can’t understand why these recommendations are coming forward and on what basis.”

Deans is no longer sitting on the committee and therefore doesn’t have a vote until it reaches council.

Bay Coun. Mark Taylor, chairman of the committee, said the committee only has a duty to look at the bylaw regulating the industry to ensure it’s serving the needs of people who want to use taxis.

Other proposed changes include encouraging taxis to serve rural areas of the city by instituting a minimum $30 fare. Trips would only be made between the rural area, which doesn’t have taxi regulations, and the regulated urban area.

Other changes include reductions in taxi inspections and refresher courses for taxis, a requirement to display the cab number larger and more clearly.

source: http://www.emcottawaeast.ca/

Mar 29

Drivers worried by surge in black cabs in Norwich

Cabbies in Norwich want a limit on the number of black cab licences which are handed out.

People in Norwich have been invited to help decide whether the number of black cabs operating in the city should be limited.

Taxi drivers have long been calling on Norwich City Council to limit the number of hackney carriages allowed to operate, saying the city is so flooded with them that they are struggling to make a living.

The Norwich Hackney Trade Association said people who lost their jobs in the recession had turned to cab driving, bringing the number of vehicles on the city’s streets up to saturation point, with more than 200.

A petition was presented to the city council’s licensing committee in November 2010, but the council has yet to figure out how to tackle the issue.

The council cannot legally refuse to licence a hackney carriage once licensing conditions have been met, unless it is satisfied there is no significant ‘unmet demand’ for taxi services within the city and no survey has been done to establish if that is the case.

But officers have been looking to see if they could control the numbers another way – by changing the existing hackney carriage licence conditions or vehicle specification – and have asked the public for views.

However, Ian Clodd, chairman of the Norwich Hackney Trade Association, said cab drivers were frustrated a problem raised 18 months ago has still not been tackled.

He said: “They have put it off and put it off and it is now past saturation point. What they need to do is cap the licences for a few years, because as it stands we are getting somebody new starting every week.

“We are finding it hard to make a living and some of the older drivers. who know the city like the back of their hand, are leaving the trade. We are at our wits’ end.”

The results of the consultation will go back before members of the licensing committee in June.

Fares for Hackney carriages, which are the taxis you can ‘flag down’ at a taxi rank or off the street, are set by the city council.

The city council also licences private hire vehicles, which have to be pre-booked.

Bert Bremner, cabinet member with responsibility for licensing at Norwich City Council, said: “We’d very much like the city’s residents to offer their views on the licensing of black cabs that operate in Norwich.”

The closing date for the consultation is Monday, April 30. To submit your views, visit www.norwich.gov.uk and click ‘Current consultations’ in the quick links box on the left-hand side of the home page.

http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/

Mar 28

Inquiry into Manchester council taxi licence prices

Manchester City Council will be investigated by the Audit Commission over the price of taxi licences.

The probe follows a Greater Manchester Private Hire Association claim that drivers were paying £240 more than those in Liverpool.

MR Black Cabs’ Les Reid said he wants the “disparity” in pricing explained, especially as Liverpool drivers got a “far better service”.

A council spokesman said licensees were not being “overcharged”.

The Audit Commission’s Grant Thornton said the body had “received a request to review the council’s arrangements for charging for private hire licenses”, which he said he was “responding to through the normal course of the audit”.

Mr Reid said that licensing a black cab in Manchester cost £410 per year, while “our neighbours in Liverpool pay £170 and get a far better service”.

“We need that answering – why is there such a disparity?” he said.

‘No issue identified’

Manchester City Council’s licence price includes the cost of MOT tests on vehicles, which Liverpool’s does not.

The Manchester drivers claim that by law the council can only charge for the cost of administration, but that council accounts showed that costs for catering, car parking permits and security had also been attached.

Derek Brocklehurst, from Manchester Private Hire Association, said drivers needed “a breakdown of the fees line-by-line”.

“There needs to be some questions answered about what we’re getting, especially in these hard times,” he said.

The council spokesman said the claims were “simply wrong” as “neither Hackney nor private hire drivers are overcharged for licensing fees”.

“Our accounts are subjected to rigorous external auditing and no issue has been identified with expenditure or income relating to taxi licensing,” he said.

He added that the council were “happy to work with the external auditors to demonstrate that there is nothing amiss about our figures”.

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

Mar 28

Middlesbrough taxi man cleared of assault

A CABBIE has been cleared of inappropriately touching a passenger as he dropped her off.

A jury took less than half-an-hour to clear Saghir Ahmed of sexual assault at Teesside Crown Court.

It followed a complaint by a passenger who alleged the driver had touched her leg and asked for her number.

The 46-year-old had strenuously denied the allegation and branded it as “a lie” in court.

Yesterday, a jury found him not guilty.

Judge George Moorhouse told him: “You’re free to go.”

Ahmed, of Abingdon Road, Middlesbrough, had denied the sexual assault charge throughout his trial this week.

Earlier, the jury had heard from his alleged victim, who cannot be identified.

The young woman claimed the taxi driver had taken her and her mother home from Asda, in Thornaby, on September 2 last year.

She said that as she prepared to leave the taxi, Ahmed placed his hand on her thigh and asked for her phone number.

However, Richard Bennett, defending, claimed the woman had made up the allegation.

He said that during the journey the woman had turned around to speak to her mother in the back seat and had twice obstructed the driver.

Mr Bennett said the woman had vowed to complain about Ahmed’s “attitude” after he told her off.

The court heard the allegation was not made to police until five days after the alleged incident – following a complaint to his employer and a meeting at a taxi licensing office.

“That’s not because of a sexual assault. It’s because you wanted him sacked,” said Mr Bennett.

Read More http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news

Mar 28

Middlesbrough cabbie hit passenger with wheel brace

A TAXI driver has admitted striking a passenger with a wheel brace – saying he feared he was about to be attacked during a dispute over the fare.

Bilal Hussain claimed he felt threatened and feared being attacked when he lashed out.

He had previously denied an assault charge and a trial had begun at Teesside Crown Court earlier this month.

But the 45-year-old has now pleaded guilty to the charge – on the basis he had feared being attacked himself.

Shaun Dryden, defending, told the court: “There was a dispute regarding a taxi journey.

“He was approached by two males. He perceived that he was about to be attacked by one or both men.”

Mr Dryden said Hussain had driven away following the incident and was unaware that his victim – Paul Green – had been injured.

Teesside Crown Court previously heard that Mr Green was left with a scar on his face, as well as cuts and bruises, following the dispute.

He was treated at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Mr Green said he suffered headaches, concussion and memory loss, leaving him temporarily unable to work as a self-employed builder.

The dispute had occurred on March 11 last year after Mr Green had been out drinking with family and friends in Saltburn and Redcar.

Hussain had picked up the group in Redcar after the taxi firm allegedly agreed to make three drop-offs.

The party stopped at Tesco where Mr Green then withdrew £30 for the cab fare.

But he alleged that after making the second drop-off at Saltburn, Hussain refused to take Mr Green and his cousin any further.

Mr Green told the court: “I remember arguing with him, I was adamant that I wanted to go to Skelton.

“The argument got a little bit aggressive in speech. After that it was very hazy.

“I remember being outside the taxi or around the taxi and being struck. Then I remember crawling away.”

Hussain, of Park Road South, Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty to assault causing actual bodily harm.

He will be sentenced at Teesside Crown Court on April 20.

Read More http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/

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