Minibus taxi safeguarding loophole must be fixed, councils urge

A “worrying” loophole that allows people to drive members of the public in minibuses without having a criminal record check must be solved by urgently updating taxi licensing laws, councils warned today.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils, says the safeguarding flaw is a huge loophole which is putting the public at an increased risk of harm, including those who may be more vulnerable after a night out.

Under current laws, drivers of Public Carriage Vehicles (PCVs) – those seating between nine and sixteen passengers – are licensed by the DVLA but are not subject to a criminal record check.

This contrasts with councils whose licensing of taxis – both hackney carriages and private hire vehicles (minicab) – requires drivers to produce an up-to-date enhanced criminal record check. Councils have the power to refuse or revoke a licence if a driver has convictions or cautions, or has behaved in a way that they believe renders the driver a risk to the public.

The loophole means that drivers refused a taxi or minicab licence, or whose licence has been revoked by councils, are obtaining a PCV licence and then continuing to operate in the same area – sometimes working for the same company. The drivers are effectively operating as licensed drivers by transporting members of the public around in larger vehicles, despite not having had the same checks or being deemed not ‘fit and proper’ to do so by the council.

The LGA says the loophole is undermining work to safeguard taxi passengers and is urging the Government to amend the law to ensure that 9-16 seater vehicles are licensed by councils in line with the requirements for taxis and minicabs. The Law Commission made recommendations on this in its 2014 report into taxi licensing, but the Government has yet to respond to the report or introduce a taxi reform Bill.

Examples of drivers who continue to drive members of the public despite councils determining that they pose a risk to passengers include:

A taxi driver whose licence was revoked following a conviction for harassment and further allegations of harassment and inappropriate conduct with a child was granted a PCV licence.

A taxi driver whose licence was refused for issues relating to misconduct – mainly with young female and vulnerable passengers – was granted a PCV licence within six months, working for the same company.

A taxi driver whose licence was revoked for inappropriate conduct with two young female passengers – specifically using data from booking and dispatch records to call and text them from his mobile phone – is working for the same taxi company as a PCV driver.

A man who, after being refused a taxi licence twice, drove his car through the barrier of the site where the councils’ officers were based in order to confront them, is now driving a 16-seat minibus taxi.

As larger minibus taxis become more commonplace, the LGA says that it is vital that the public receives the same level of protection regardless of whether they are using a standard sized taxi, minicab or minibus.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“The majority of PCV drivers will be people who the public can trust, but this loophole provides an opportunity for unscrupulous drivers to continue to work in close proximity to passengers, even when a council has determined that they are not safe to do so.

“Anyone who books or flags down a standard taxi has the reassurance that all drivers are vetted and licensed by councils. The same safeguarding checks should apply to anyone driving a nine to 16-seat minibus

“Larger minibuses are often sent in place of a regular taxi to pick up individuals or small parties, purely because they are nearest to the pick-up point rather than because there is a requirement for such a large vehicle. They are used to take groups of children to school, or to drive groups home after nights out.

“It is therefore extremely worrying that councils’ proactive work to protect taxi passengers from harm – and particularly those who may be most vulnerable – is being undermined by this loophole.

“We are urging the Government to act quickly to address this and bring PCVs into line with other local taxi licensing requirements.

“Two-and-a-half years after the Law Commission’s report into taxi licensing, this issue shows why it is vital that the Government introduces a Taxi Reform Bill to address this and the many other anomalies hindering our taxi licensing system.”


Bristol: Taxi drivers filmed turning away disabled passengers

Taxi drivers in Bristol are breaking the law by turning away some disabled passengers, an ITV investigation has found.

The City Council says it will launch an inquiry after we filmed hackney drivers telling a woman in a wheelchair they couldn’t give her a lift.

Kate Sweetman, who uses an electric wheelchair because she has multiple sclerosis, missed a concert after travelling from her home in Chippenham to Bristol because no hackney cab could take her to the venue.

ITV West Country filmed with her in Bristol city centre as four out of five drivers she approached said they were unable to help:

Reasons they gave included the size of her chair or weight restrictions on their vehicles. One didn’t have suitable ramps to get Kate into the back of the vehicle. Kate says her chair is no wider than a manually operated one.

“It makes you feel like a second-class citizen,” she said. “It smacks your disability in your face. Everywhere should be suitable for anybody to use. Your human right should be for you to use anything the same as anybody else.”

The chair of the Public Safety and Protection Committee, Cllr Sultan Khan Chair, told us drivers were committing a criminal offence by not taking Kate.

“They shouldn’t be doing that,” he added. “We can suspend their licence, we can revoke it if necessary. The bottom line is the hackney vehicles are wheelchair accessible and nothing can prevent them from taking passengers, whatever their disability.”

He said the local authority would be investigating the findings and reviewing its policies. It also intends to carry out undercover spot-checks.
The City Council issues just under 1,000 hackney cab licences in Bristol.

The Bristol Disability Equality Forum told us Kate’s experience was ‘depressingly common’.


Uber driver used as courier in drugs bust

A former rugby star was convicted after copying the hit TV show Breaking Bad to rake in hundreds of thousands of pounds by cooking crystal meth.

Lorenzo Bocchini, 36, set up a hi-tech drugs laboratory in his luxurious Little Venice home, where police recovered £300,000 of drugs, £33,000 cash and a stun gun.

Crystal meth at the flat was found to have been dyed blue — the colour of a narcotic created by fictional drug baron Walter White in Breaking Bad.

Bocchini’s brother Alessandro, 43, was arrested along with his wife Justine, 36, in the same police operation eight months earlier at their Bayswater home.

Officers recovered crystal meth, MDMA and £12,210 in cash. The couple pleaded guilty to a string of drugs offences, including possession with intent to supply crystal meth, the designer drug mephedrone, ecstasy and cocaine. They were jailed earlier for six and four years respectively.

Footage seized from CCTV inside their home showed the pair counting thousands of pounds worth of cash just hours before they were raided.

Police say the family members ran a wholesale drugs distribution network using an Uber driver as a courier to transport packages to users around London, referring to the deliveries as “T-bags”.

A financial investigation identified £100,000 of drugs money went via the couple’s bank accounts in the six months before their arrest.

In total, detectives believe they have identified millions of pounds of assets, including a flat in Dubai.

The family were targeted by detectives from Lambeth police’s Omega drugs and firearms team in a long-running surveillance and intelligence operation. Detectives had been investigating a spate of deaths from chemsex drugs such as GHB, including fatalities at a gay sauna in Vauxhall.

Today Det Con Matt Clark, who led the investigation, said: “The Bocchini family were making significant profits selling highly dangerous and addictive class A drugs. What we uncovered was the wholesale supply of crystal methlyamphetamine and other drugs, focusing on the ‘chemsex’ scene in south London.

“The use of crystal meth within this scene is hugely damaging and we believe there are strong connections to drug deaths, rape and child sexual exploitation, links which we continue to investigate.”

Alessandro was identified as a supplier of wholesale amounts of crystal meth and police raided his Bayswater house last November.

His wife Justine, the mother of two young children, told officers as the pair were held: “It was a good life.” During interviews, both denied possessing or dealing drugs and Justine claimed she just “baked cup cakes”.

However, photographic evidence from Alessandro’s phone showed a kitchen table laden with crystal meth in a preparation phase prior to sale, with a text message from him that read: “Well cooked my little chef.”

His brother Lorenzo was due to be sentenced at Southwark crown court on December 1 for drugs supply offences. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

When officers raided his rented flat in July, as well as drugs and cash they found sachets of dye used to colour the crystal meth blue in an apparent copy of the Breaking Bad series.

Police say all three offenders grew hooked on the drugs they supplied.

Det Insp Stephen Payne, of Omega squad, said the case was unusual because none of the main offenders were previously known to police.

He added: “In that sense it was like the Breaking Bad scenario. These were professional people who made a choice to go into this venture. They were not career criminals but were looking for an opportunity to make money out of nothing.

“They lived a high-roller, Breaking Bad lifestyle, not really knowing what to do with the cash. They even seemed to adopt the Breaking Bad signature of dying their crystal meth blue.”

Lorenzo Bocchini played as a prop for two Italian club sides in his career between 2000 and 2010, including for Viadana in the Heineken Cup.
In 2010 he was named by the British press as one of the players from the L’Aquila club who helped survivors when an earthquake hit the town.


Calls for taxi drivers to undergo disability awareness training

Research shows nearly half of guide dog owners have been illegally refused a ride in the past year because of their animal.

That’s what MPs are discussing with the introduction of a Private Members Bill by Andrew Gwynne MP that is being debated in Parliament today.

According to the Guide Dogs charity, there is an ongoing issue with guide dog owners being illegally turned away by drivers who do not want to carry their dog.

New research by the charity shows 42% of blind or visually impaired people were significantly more likely to be turned away by drivers because of their dog, while 38% of guide dog owners have been illegally asked to pay an extra fare for carrying their dog.

The charity said being discriminated against in this way is not only distressing, it can also stop people who are living with sight-loss do everyday things that most people take for granted.

Rosemary Howell, 28, is visually impaired and lives in rural Cambridgeshire.

She told Sky News she had been refused by three different taxi drivers because they did not want to take her dog, Una, who she has had for about two years.

The drivers had been given disability training but she said the experience left her feeling vulnerable and she would like there to be tougher penalties.

She said: “Even when I got in a taxi they didn’t seem that bothered and I felt very unwanted.

“Why should I have to be different from everyone else just because I have a disability and I have something that will help me?

“Taxi drivers need educating because then they might have a bit more empathy with service users who have guide dogs or assistance dogs because they understand that dog needs to go with the owner in the front.

“A lot of taxi companies say you have to have the dog in the boot, and you can’t have that because it has to go with the owner.

“If education is there to teach these people this is the law and this is what service dogs are, I think life for a disabled person will be a lot easier.”

Both the Licensed Private Hire Car Association and the National Taxi Association are backing the bill while Transport for London, which looks after 35% of England & Wales’ licensed vehicles, is introducing mandatory disability equality training for drivers.

Uber says any driver who refuses to take a guide dog will permanently lose access to its app and risks losing their licence.


Commons Questions: Tourism Action Plan

Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, in reference to page 11 of the Tourism Action Plan, published in August 2016, whether deregulating an element of private hire vehicle licences will be carried out through primary legislation.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The deregulation of private hire vehicles licensing where transportation is an ancillary element of the service provided will require primary legislation.

Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, in reference to page 11 of the Tourism Action Plan, published in August 2016, what assessment his Department has made of the effect on consumer safety of deregulating an element of private hire vehicle licences for owners of hotels to collect visitors from ports of entry.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Department for Transport is working with other departments including the Home Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to consider how common sense regulation can be introduce where transport is an ancillary element of the service provided. Consumer safety remains the primary concern.

Dec 16

Normanton taxi driver’s battle to clear name

Taxi driver Aamer Shahzad.

A taxi driver turned detective to clear his name after a mum accused him of assaulting her two-year-old son.

Aamer Shahzad, 31, feared he could be sent to prison and lose his licence after being quizzed by police over the allegations that he slapped the youngster for jumping on his car seats.

The case against him was eventually dropped thanks to CCTV footage he obtained after contacting a shop owner in Normanton, near Wakefield.

The pictures revealed the toddler’s mother smacking her son across his legs shortly after Mr Shahzad had dropped them off.

The woman, in her 20s, later admitting making up the story against Mr Shahzad after panicking when she realised she had left red marks on his legs and feared she would get into trouble.

The mum, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted assault and perverting justice on July 25. She was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and made the subject of a supervision order for two years.

Passing sentence at Leeds Crown Court, recorder Simon Jackson said: “You set out over two pages the details of your allegation against this taxi driver.

“That was an outrageous allegation to make against an identified individual which led to serious consequences.”

He added: “One has only to consider or speculate as to what might have been the consequences for this unfortunate taxi driver Mr Shahzad if he had not got the good sense and determination to pursue an inquiry at the local supermarket and obtain evidence which may never have been available but for his diligence, which revealed the assailant in this case was the defendant and not Mr Shahzad.

“Had that not been available, I am satisfied this defendant would have persisted in her complaint and the evidence may have been believed and this would have led to a serious charge against this wholly innocent man, with perhaps a miscarriage of justice following. It was very fortunate that was not the outcome.”

After the hearing, Mr Shahzad, 31, a driver for Normanton-based Local Cars, told the YEP he was off work for two days with stress and worry over the false claim.

He said: “I was shocked that she could say that about me. I was stressed out when the police twice called me in for interviews. I could have lost my job and my taxi driver’s licence.

“She didn’t complain about anything during the journey, she just paid her fare and got out.”

He added: “When the truth came out I was relieved. I didn’t understand what she had against me. All I did was pick her up and drop her off. If I hadn’t got the CCTV footage my livelihood could have been ruined.

“She can’t be a good person, doing what she did.”

Mr Shahzad’s boss, Wasim Ramzan, said: “I’ve never had any complaints about him, he’s a good worker.

“I can’t understand why she did it, to blame a person she doesn’t even know.

“She was just looking for an easy way out for herself.”

Jonathan Wilkinson, for the woman, said she lost her temper and hit the youngster after he bit her finger.


Dec 16

Taxi Trade in Burton….Screwed?

BURTON’S screw-spreading menace has taken a sinister turn after taxi drivers in the town were deliberately targeted.

The latest attack came when a handful of two-inch silver screws was scattered across the taxi rank outside Burton Railway Station.

The criminal struck during the cover of night and drivers were shocked to discover the Tarmac outside the station littered with screws.

Cabbie Khalid Javid collected the steel menaces in a bag yesterday morning so no cars entering the station car park had tyres punctured.

“We have had a lot of cars get screws stuck in their tyres because screws are lying in the streets all over Burton,” said Shaukat Mehmood, another driver.

“They’re everywhere and no-one knows who is doing it. It is a big problem for drivers.” The screw scattering at the station is the first incident yet which appears to be a deliberate attack on taxi drivers.

The incident comes just weeks after Staffordshire County Council’s highways team revealed officers had collected 1,500 screws discarded in streets across Burton during a five-hour clean-up operation.

The screw plague has left scores of motorists with massive repair bills after the objects became embedded in tyres.

Saj Hussain, manager of Speedy’s Wheels and Tyres, based in Hawkins Lane, Burton, said the number of people needing tyre changes had ‘more than doubled’ in recent weeks.

He said: “There are lots more people coming in because there are screws and nails stuck in their tyres.

“Two weeks ago was the busiest week for a long time. The number of people needing tyres was more than double the usual amount.”

Mr Hussain said many taxi drivers had visited his store in need of new tyres after suffering screw punctures.

The screws have been found across Burton and as far spread as Branston, Stretton, Winshill, Stapenhill and Outwoods.

Police have no suspects and no leads.

Anyone with information about the origin of the screws is asked to call Staffordshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

Screws which need clearing up from roads can be reported by calling 0300 111 8000.


Dec 15

Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle statistics

Dear National Taxi Association,

You might like to be aware that we have today published our biennial Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle statistics.  The latest figures relate to 31 March 2011 and are available from the Department’s website here:

Key points include:

  • There were 78,000 licensed taxis in England and Wales as at 31 March 2011. Of these 73,000 were in England, an increase of 3 per cent from 2009, the last time that this information was collected.
  • In 2011, in England 44,300 licensed taxis were wheelchair accessible – 61 per cent of the total.
  • There were 155,100 licensed Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) in England and Wales as at 31 March 2011. 150,900 of these were in England, an increase of 3 per cent compared with 2009.

Figures for individual licensing authorities are provided here:

We welcome any feedback on these statistics, and if you have any questions please feel free to contact me by return email or on the number below.

Kind regards,

Dec 15

Rickshaws – the new vision for transport in Gloucester city centre

RICKSHAWS buzzing around Gloucester city centre could be a common sight by 2013.

Tim Beck is currently bidding for a licence, similar to a Hackney Carriage one, to use his own rickshaw, which is also known as a pedicab, in the city.

  1. PEDAL POWER:   Tim Beck, with Sheriff of Gloucester Councillor Pam Tracey, Canon Nicky Arthy and Father Christmas.

    PEDAL POWER: Tim Beck, with Sheriff of Gloucester Councillor Pam Tracey, Canon Nicky Arthy and Father Christmas.

The 37-year-old is optimistic the application will go through, and when it does he believes it could be the start of a new dawn for public transport in Gloucester.

He said: “I hope to have everything finalised by Easter, and I’m looking to take people from the Cathedral to the Quays and back again.

“I can see another 10 or so coming to the city in the next few years if that happens.”

Mr Beck, from Gloucester, bought his Rickshaw for £2,500 from a company in Scotland which imported it from China.

A former builder, Mr Beck injured his back in May this year and immediately got his thinking cap on regarding future career avenues.

He said: “I’ve got no background in this whatsoever, it was just an idea I had.


“I am a big fan of Gloucester and I feel that the distance between the Cathedral and the Quays is just that little bit too much to walk, so this could be the ideal answer.

“I would be charging £2.50 per person per journey, and I can fit two in at a time.”

The licence he is applying for is essentially a Hackney Carriage one with certain modifications due to the nature of the pedicab. “The licence will have to be altered slightly, but I don’t see it being too much of an issue,” he added.

“There are around 800 in London, although the licensing is different there. They also have them in Hereford, Bristol and Oxford too.

“They have been around since 2005, but I can see them really taking off soon, over the last few years people have really been picking up on it.”

He was out using his pedicab at the weekend treating carollers and Father Christmas to a festive trip ahead of a performance at the Gloucester Cathedral. And the proposal has been backed by Gloucester City Centre Community Partnership secretary Barry Leach, who said Mr Beck had taken him for a demonstration ride. He said: “It’s a great idea.”


Dec 15

Taxi driver shocked by car park fine

Baffled: taxi driver Stephen Edwards with his parking fine.

A Taxi driver has described his “shock” after being fined £90 for leaving his car too long in a car park it wasn’t even in.

Baffled Stephen Edwards, from Hamden Way, Papworth Everard, received the fine through the post on Monday which said he had exceeded the one-and-a-half hour free parking time limit in Lidl’s St Neots car park, in Cambridge Street.

But he had, in fact, paid to park in the adjoining Huntingdonshire District Council car park – which shares the same entrance with Lidl –  for three hours and left within that period.

However, the camera system used by Lidl to ensure customers do not overstay in their car park by registering when number plates on vehicles enter and leave also picked up Mr Edwards’ Papworth Carriage Company and found him at fault on December 3.

The 63-year-old former policeman said: “It was a big shock when I got the letter through and I just find the whole thing ridiculous. It makes you wonder how many people have been fined and haven’t realised when they haven’t done anything wrong.

“I have never had a problem with a car park like this before, and won’t be using it again.”

A spokeswoman for Huntingdonshire District Council confirmed that they were aware of the issue.

She said: “Our officers have been down to the Lidl store and we have been told it is a problem with the software they are using in the car park.

“It is an intermittent fault because it should recognise when cars go through to our car park.”

But Mr Edwards added: “If the council knew about it, they should have foreseen issues like mine and done something sooner.”

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Lidl told the News & Crier that Athena ANPR Ltd, which provides the camera system for the supermarket, had met the district council and had agreed to install a pedestrian island at the entrance to the council car park which would clearly differentiate between the two car parks.

She added her apologies to Mr Edwards and said his fine would be cancelled.


Dec 15

Bedford Taxi Strike not ruled out for Christmas week and beyond

Taxi drivers outside A1 taxi office

TAXI and private hire car drivers warned they could strike on Christmas week, ahead of crunch talks with Borough Hall bosses yesterday.

The drivers, supported by operators, cancelled a planned strike last weekend after voting to have further talks with Bedford Borough Council.

Bedford Borough’s 672 licensed private hire and Hackney Carriage drivers are unhappy with a number of new or proposed rules from the council which they claim will inflict unnecessary costs on drivers.

Balal Shah, spokesman for the drivers, said: “Last weekend we felt that the strike action was necessary because the council is putting too much pressure on us in this industry.

“We have been honest and open with the council and have not caused trouble in any way.

“Yet after a meeting on the Thursday night the police were called to remove us from Borough Hall even though we had made the decision to leave for another venue. This made us feel like we weren’t being taken seriously.”

He added: “We later spoke with the council again and voted in favour of holding off strike action to open up more dialogue with the council.

“We were invited to go back to have crisis talks with the council on Wednesday but we have still not ruled out strike action for this weekend for 24 hours and in the week.

“This is a bad time of year for this to be happening because it is the festive season and everyone is working hard to avoid it. We feel the committee isn’t listening.”

Issues discussed at the meeting included rules to make compulsory the installation CCTV in vehicles at a cost of around £800 per driver, removing manufacturer’s tinted windows from vehicles at a cost of around £600 to £1,000, and having to pay to re-sit driving, knowledge, DSA and English language tests as part of a proposed single badge scheme which will cost each driver in excess of £200.

New rules which require taxis to have a tire depth of 2.5ml, which is above the standard legal 1.6ml for domestic drivers, have also caused concerns.

Mr Shah said: “At the moment we have to carry three ids and we support the move for a single badge, but it is not fair that we would have to re-sit tests that we have already passed.

“Someone who has passed their driving test years ago would not pass first time because of the habits they have picked up, as well as the cost of the test we would have to pay extra money for driving lessons.

“The council chooses to use taxis for some school transport because it is cheaper than having their own fleet of vehicles. We have been doing school transport with no problems for 15 years now.”

A spokesman for Bedford Borough Council said: “We can confirm that we have advised the taxi and private hire drivers that we are happy to discuss any of the issues that they have raised in an effort to find a way forward that ensures the safety of our residents, which is our priority and a legal duty.”


Dec 15

Fighting Dumbarton taxi drivers hold on to licence

What the fight might have looked like

A TAXI driver claimed he punched another cabbie because he was being “persecuted” after joining a rival company.

Dumbarton man John Neeson was sacked by Dumbarton and Alexandria TOA last year and later joined Wright’s Taxis.

However, the split has been bitter and Mr Neeson has been involved in confrontations with TOA drivers.

This culminated in a heated row between Mr Neeson and Brian Rainey, secretary of TOA, outside Alexandria CE Centre on June 17 at 10am.

Mr Neeson punched the man after claiming he was spat on and then shoved.

West Dunbartonshire Council’s licensing chiefs were considering suspending the pair over the incident and summoned them both to a committee hearing in Clydebank last Tuesday.

The committee heard how Mr Neeson had been parking in the rank at Morrisons supermarket in Dumbarton, which is used by TOA drivers, and Mr Rainey confronted him about this.

Mr Neeson explained why he lashed out, saying: “These people have pushed me to the edge over a long period of time since I was unjustly dismissed from their organisation.

“My language wasn’t very pretty as I asked him to go away and leave me alone.

“He told me where to go and spat through a half open window at me.

“I became very angry and stood face to face with him. There wasn’t any contact made until he pushed me.

“I did what I know best and it was to protect myself with one punch.

“He was then shouting, ‘I’m going to have you’. I’m not sure whether it meant he wants to physically harm me or wants me out of the taxi trade.

“But I believe he wants me out of the trade as I’m a thorn in their side because of what they did to me.”

Neeson told the committee he’s a married man with two kids and wants to get on with providing for them.

“I’ve had a shady past and I don’t want to go back there,” he said.

“But this individual pushed me to the edge that day and I cracked.

“Any person who gets spat on and pushed would crack.”

He added: “I crossed the line. I know I was wrong.

“I just want to get on with my job and be allowed to provide – but they are not allowing me to do that.”

Vale man Mr Rainey insists he did not go looking for a fight and was shocked at Mr Neeson’s violent reaction.

He said: “I had been approached by several drivers who work at the Morrisons rank about John Neeson.

“We contacted Mr Wright (taxi company boss) three times about John Neeson before and this was the fourth time.

“I knew it would be confrontational but I was just pointing out to him that if he didn’t stop using our rank we would park in theirs.

“I instigated the conversation, I didn’t instigate confrontation.

“I didn’t expect the reaction I got from him and I certainly didn’t expect to get punched.”

At a previous council committee TOA were criticised for not reporting incidents to the police and Councillor Jonathan McColl asked Mr Rainey if he had called cops this time.

He responded: “Yes. They asked if I wanted to take it further but I said no.”

Both men were allowed to continue operating as taxi drivers but will be sent a warning letter from the licensing committee.


Dec 14

‘Too many taxis in Derby’, claims drivers association

The Derby Area Taxi Drivers Association said its members were having to work longer hours because there were too many taxis for a city of Derby’s size.

It estimated there were 400 hackney carriage-style taxis and more than 1,000 private hire cars.

Derby City Council said limiting the number of licences could lead to horse-trading between drivers.

Javed Khan, chairman of the association, said the large numbers of taxis in the city meant drivers were having to stay out longer to earn a living wage.

‘Mouths to feed’

He said: “The council’s policy is quantity over quality. We’re not a city like London where people walk around hailing taxis.

“Our working hours are a lot longer now because we’re not taking as much money as we used to.

“We’ve all got mortgages to pay and some of us have young families and mouths to feed.”

Mr Javed said the council should also provide more taxi ranks as driving around looking for fares was expensive and bad for the environment.

Derby City Council’s Chris Poulter said: “This has been considered on a number of occasions and the conclusion we’ve come to is that if people meet the criteria for a taxi and they’ve got a reasonable vehicle then we give them a licence.

“In other cities they’ve put a limit on the number of taxis they have but it’s created a problem.

“The licence itself becomes of value and unscrupulous drivers have, on occasion, got a number of licences and sold them on.

“It’s supply and demand. If there aren’t enough customers then the number of taxi drivers will moderate itself.”

Mr Poulter said the recent introduction of taxi marshals to organise queues of people into taxis around the city had been a great success.


Dec 14

Cardiff cabbies threaten strike action over abusive passengers

HUNDREDS of Cardiff taxi drivers are threatening to strike on one of the  busiest nights of the year, in protest at being abused by drunken punters.

Mathab Khan, chairman of Cardiff Hackney Association, said his 731 members  could walk out on Friday, December 23 – dubbed Black Friday – if South Wales  Police and Cardiff council did not promise drivers greater protection.

He claimed city cabbies were regularly subjected to physical and verbal  attacks, racism, foul language and damaged cars – and said drivers working over  the Christmas party period would be “endangering their lives”.

Both the police and the council have vowed to clamp down on anti-social  behaviour over the festive season.

And South Wales Police rejected claims from Mr Khan they did not respond  quickly enough to allegations of criminal behaviour made by drivers.

Mr Khan said drivers in the capital had been attacked, subjected to bad  language, verbal abuse and racism, and had their vehicles kicked or punched by  city centre revellers.

He said: “It’s been going on for the last few years and it’s very  frightening. We are trying very hard to make a living.”

Mr Khan said drivers were “dreading” the two forthcoming weekends.

“The punters come out and get sozzled and smashed and then want to get in a  cab. The drivers are very scared and very frightened.”

He called on police and council officials to guarantee cabbies extra  protection – or face a dramatic walkout on one of the biggest nights of the  year.

“I don’t want them to take this lightly,” said Mr Khan. “It’s extremely  serious. We will not work. Why should we endanger our lives to work?”

A South Wales Police spokeswoman said: “Taxi drivers have a challenging job  at times and we appreciate the work they do in taking people, who are often  intoxicated, home from the city centre. Unfortunately, incidents such as  criminal damage, assault and verbal abuse can occur and when reported they are  investigated thoroughly.

“A wide-ranging safety and cleanliness campaign by Cardiff council and South  Wales Police is under way in Cardiff to keep people safe and improve everyone’s  enjoyment of nightlife in the city centre.

“Initiatives include extra policing and a targeting of individuals involved  in anti-social behaviour and an extended taxi marshalling service.”

A Cardiff council spokeswoman said it had promoted a code of conduct for  drivers and passengers, and also pointed to the existence of the Taxi Forum – a  regular meeting between council officials, police officers and industry  representatives, including Mr Khan – as an example of the authorities working  with drivers to ensure concerns were addressed.


Dec 14

Grimsby thug who punched taxi driver handed a five-year Asbo

A THUG who attacked a taxi driver has been given a five-year Asbo to stop his bad behaviour.

Leroy Fowler, 25, of Gilbey Road, Grimsby, has an “appalling” criminal record of 109 offences, Grimsby Crown Court was told – having served 11 years in total in detention centres and prisons for previous crimes.

  1. SENTENCED: Leroy Fowler has been handed a five-year Asbo and 19-month jail term for the attack on Brian Denford.

Now he has been jailed for 19 months for assaulting taxi driver Brian Denford in Pasture Street, Grimsby, on May 7. He also admitted possessing a knife and a similar offence of possessing a lock knife in a street in Hull in October. Fowler was also in breach of a conditional discharge for an offence of theft.

It comes just days after the Telegraph reported on prolific shoplifter Claire Wilson’s Asbo, banning the “one-woman crime wave” from entering dozens of stores in North East Lincolnshire.

Prosecuting, Craig Lowe said Mr Denford had dropped off a passenger when one of his wing mirrors was kicked off the taxi.

He got out of the car to assess the damage. There was a verbal altercation between the driver and a group of people in the street, which resulted in Fowler punching the driver. Mr Lowe said he saw Fowler carrying a three-inch bladed weapon.

When the group walked off, Mr Denford got back into his car and called 999. He followed Fowler and alerted police to where he was.

In interview, Fowler admitted he was in possession but denied threatening the driver with it. Mr Lowe said the damage caused to the taxi was estimated at £100.

Reading a statement from the victim, Mr Lowe said Mr Denford was frustrated as a working man going about his job and getting attacked.

The court was told that in the past five years, Fowler has been convicted of five offences of violence, three of public disorder and two of unlawful wounding.

Judge Kate Buckingham said: “Mr Denford was a man out doing his job and he is entitled not to be struck by members of the public.”

She imposed the antisocial behaviour order to prevent Fowler from being abusive, threatening, insulting or intimidating in any part of the Humberside Police force area.

For Fowler, Michael Culshaw said his client made no threats towards Mr Denford. He said his client had alcohol-related problems.


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