Wayne’s world February 2016

casey confWayne’s world

By

Wayne Casey

The views in this piece should not be regarded as whatever, by whoever it may (and will) offend.

Regard me as a spectator

A personally favourite, now long dead comedian called George Carlin once observed that he was a spectator to events; I’m beginning to regard myself similarly in all things taxi.

I look at things happening and think very misappropriate and very unpolitically correct things about them. I do not regard this as my fault, I regard it on the whole as societies fault, therefore your fault because you lot are in fact society, as much as that fills me with trepidation.

The perfect example of the stupidity of our very existence happened this week when I was half way through a particularly decent bottle of merlot.

‘That damn app’ firm claimed victory over TFL on the very day one of its drivers was convicted of the sexual assault of a young woman.

I am not telling lies here, check the local paper from Islington.

A driver registered with ‘that damn app’ sexually assaulted a woman, yet this took little news from the national headlines.

The greater headline was a non-story, the press proclaimed the app’s victory over the regulators, further free promotion of that app.

You would, as a fair-minded person believe that someone in a particular company would actually stop and think ‘Hmmm, woman being violated against their will, that isn’t good’.

Likewise you would naturally think that someone in the nations press would stop and think ‘you know what? Maybe we should ask the company in question a few questions’. Yet there is nothing, there is a virtual press black out.

I honestly see some of these apps like a enormous bungee jump, it’s a huge thrill, will the rope hold, or will you die.

Comparatively, get in the vehicle hailed app via the iphone and will you get home still in a virginal state.

I believe the odds are roughly the same, although the chances are bungee jumping is still a little safer.

It was a similar story the month previous.

Ordinarily you would expect employing someone who was reportedly mentally disturbed would raise a few questions.

A person who was so disturbed they took a knife into a tube station, attacking and stabbing an innocent individual whilst shouting ‘this is for Syria’ would raise more than a passing comment in the press that the driver worked for an app firm.

You would believe this would lead to questions about your vetting procedures, or at least about your application process.

For example, ‘did you interview the person who is picking up your customers on your behalf, was he playing with knives at the time of the interview, were his trousers soiled, was he dribbling etc?’

Yet, whom did the media choose to vent its anger upon?.

The taxi trade of course, for merely pointing out that none of the normal things that the public should consider being done without question, were seemingly done.

This type of stupidity or just plain ignorance in the press, the lack of questions, assisted in creating situations like in Rotherham, where questions were not asked because it was not considered politically correct to ask them.

People fearful that asking questions may lead to them losing the vital things in life, like your job if you ask them, therefore complaints went ignored or uninvestigated.

Then we have stories about local authorities increasing license fees by around 100%, and in some cases much more.

Considering since time immortal licensing departments have been zero profit making, it rather makes you wonder about the level of accountancy skills employed by those all holy folk above us.

My milkman Dave charges me £6.40p each week for half a dozen bottles of milk delivered to my door by local delinquents, I don’t know if that expensive or not, I consider shopping a menial task and therefore delegate it.

Nevertheless, I like Dave, he does support Manchester United, which has put a serious strain on our relationship over the years, but we have put this aside.

Now if Dave comes along next week and says Wayne, I need £1000 for those six bottles, there was a surge in demand. I think Dave and me would have a serious falling out.

In fact, as much as I like Dave, I really think I’d kick him all around my front lawn, and as you folk will know from my gardening column in the paper, I really like my lawn.

Therefore, if all of a sudden, my local council decided to increase my license fee by 100%, I’d be a little upset, because these people, unlike Dave my milkman, should actually know, say to a figure of say around 5% either way, if the fee is accurate.

Naturally, I can sack Dave and get litres of the white stuff far cheaper elsewhere, but I cant sack my licensing authority (well could if I went to Rossendale or some other ghastly place where the sun doesn’t shine).

I recently heard of one local authority saying it took 15 hours to process a PH operator’s license as part of the justification for a huge increase in license fees.

Can somebody please write in and tell me how it takes 15 hours to look at an application form, I wonder if this timescale includes teaching basic English to the council staff?

How long can it possibly take to look at a form that you designed yourself, maybe check the accompanying planning consent and maybe check a criminal records certificate (if required).

As I write it was reported that some poor bloke in York had his school contract suspended for hugging his own children, and if I write that I genuinely believe the people responsible for his suspension should be water boarded for their stupidity, I’m regarded as the bad guy?

Of course, we are all well used to the high level of stupidity we are subjected to from the bureaucracy that is responsible for licensing. I know I have mentioned it before, but this 3-year licensing malarkey is a case in point.

Aside from the sheer stupidity of the government not to give out any guidance on the implementation of the law they brought in, foolishly believing it would reduce red tape.

In itself, a level of stupidity on a higher level. This was only to be expected when you listened to Baroness Kramer talk on the subject in parliament, the deregulation bill and its implications were very obviously beyond her ken.

A few months on, we appear to have local authority licensing departments attempting to justify their existence by dreaming up new excuses not to issue the licenses, or to make it harder for licensees, although I am sure this is not the case even though it looks that way.

What level of petty minded bureaucracy will refuse to issue a 3-year license on the basis a medical may expire during the duration of the license?

Unless licensing department employees are all now medically qualified, which bearing in mind some appear to have been lobotomised and is therefore doubtful. How on earth can they say whether a driver is medically suitable to continue to drive or not to drive?

Clearly, they cannot, they need a form, they need a form from the licensee’s doctor or a medical professional where the doctor says they are fit to drive a licensed vehicle.

They can then tick a box and issue a license.

Similarly with the DBS check (or whatever they’re called this week), if they expire midway through a person’s licensing period then some councils are using this as a reason not to issue the 3–year license.

I despair at this type of idiocy.

In an article in the Derbyshire Telegraph, Mid-Derbyshire’s MP Pauline Latham, recently said there was a “very serious” loophole in the taxi licensing process.

The current system forces applicants to disclose if they have had a licence refused or revoked but there is no way of telling if the applicant is telling the truth.

Taxi drivers are checked for criminal records but issues that would not show up on police records may not be known about.

Mrs Latham said the loophole had meant that a driver who has had a licence revoked by the council in one area for asking out young girls who used his taxi was successful in getting a new licence from a neighbouring authority.

She asked for a statement by the Department for Transport on the “possibility of a register of taxi drivers” so councils can check applicants to see if they have had a licence refused or revoked by another authority.

It is nice to discover that MP’s and local authorities are now fearful about the licensing system they have allowed develop.

From a personal point of view, and if I was a council official.

If I received an application for a taxi or private hire license from someone who lived many miles away, I would ask myself the question. ‘Why does this person want a license here, he lives nowhere near the place’?

I would perhaps use one of those new fangled things more commonly known as a telephone and call my colleague in the area of the applicants abode. I would ask if the chap ever had a license there.

Indeed, I may even add a question to the application form asking if the applicant has previously held a taxi or private hire license anywhere else and if it was revoked or suspended.

Sure, a person could tell fibs, but if they are caught telling fibs on an official form, they should, could and would get fined and convicted of a criminal offence.

I know this is revolutionary stuff.

 

The above article appears in the February edition of PHTM

Taxi driver suspended over offensive sign

A frustrated taxi driver’s offensive sign and verbal tirade in his campaign for tougher rules and safety regulations has landed him with a one-month suspension.

Eric Needham, 62, of Chesterfield Road, Temple Normanton, was punished by Chesterfield Borough Council’s licensing committee for using a sign in his cab banning non-English speaking customers after he had been attacked.

An unsuccessful Chesterfield magistrates’ court appeal brought by Mr Needham on Wednesday, February 3, against his taxi licence suspension also heard how he was punished for using offensive language and for not wearing his licensed taxi badge.

Mr Needham told the hearing: “The thing that hurts is that I’m a patient person but I say things in not a nice manner and I apologise. I call a spade a spade and if someone upsets me I will have a go and stand my corner.

“It hurts when I try to do the job in a proper manner and I care a lot for the people of this town and that is why it has come to this.

“If I said things that were not nice it was in the heat of the moment and I apologise.

“It’s frustration. That’s my problem and I am ashamed my 41 years as a taxi driver have been tarnished.”

The council imposed 13 licensing penalty points against Mr Needham for three breaches between May, 2014, and May, 2015 – exceeding a maximum twelve limit – and on October 14, last year, a council committee decided to impose a one-month taxi licence suspension.

Despite warnings, Mr Needham refused to move a sign from his taxi which read “Only English spoken in this vehicle” and failed to wear his licence badge, according to prosecuting barrister Asitha Ranatunga.

Mr Ranatunga revealed how further points had been imposed due to Mr Needham’s offensive language when dealing with council officers and Asian drivers.

He said: “Mr Needham refused to remove an inappropriate sign after being requested to do so on more than one occasion.

“He used inappropriate language about council officers and Asian drivers which were found offensive. Comments were made in public and demonstrated a lack of professionalism, courtesy and respect to the public.

“Since the committee decision in October, 2015, council licensing manager Trevor Durham has had further occasion to speak to Mr Needham and comments made in that conversation are consistent with his behaviour.”

Mr Needham told the court his behaviour was triggered after he repeatedly raised concerns with the council that regulations were not being enforced properly upon taxis across the borough.

The 62-year-old has previously campaigned over fears that too many cabs are being allowed to operate in the town, drivers are operating without vehicle checks and taxi-rank parking restrictions are not being enforced, meter tampering is not being monitored and unregulated and untrained cabbies are putting the public at risk and giving good cabbies a bad name.

Mr Needham told the court he had been attacked by two Asian customers with one putting an arm round his neck and the other punching him in the stomach during an attempted armed robbery and he fears a lot of drivers are in danger.

Mr Needham argued he had used the sign for his safety and has struggled to wear his badge because it gets in the way when dealing with wheelchair customers.

However, council licensing manager Trevor Durham told the court a council solicitor had found Mr Needham’s comments about Asian drivers offensive after he told the solicitor he needed the sign because he did not know what Asians were saying in his cab and whether they were saying anything derogatory, abusive or plotting.

Mr Durham stated no external or internal signs can be displayed in taxis other than stated by law and drivers must have a regard to the code of conduct and there was a failure to wear a badge and discriminatory behaviour will not be tolerated. But he also stressed Mr Needham’s sign was not deemed racist.

Mr Durham added: “Mr Mann talked about Asian drivers not speaking English at the ranks and he has concerns about Asian taxi drivers and the people coming into his vehicle but you cannot compel someone to speak English. It was felt the sign didn’t serve a purpose and it was intended to offend. It could be considered that if you are not an English speaker you’re not welcome in this car.

“A lot of Mr Needham’s history involves derogatory comments about people from ethnic backgrounds. It’s unacceptable behaviour and not something we want from our taxi drivers.

“The regulations are only worth having if they are upheld and we are trying to do that and that kind of ranting and behaviour is bad enough for officers never mind the public.”

Mr Durham added he had also received a phone call from Mr Needham complaining about Asian taxi drivers and he accused them of bringing the taxi trade down and accused the council of not acting on two complaints despite no suspects having been identified.

Mr Durham said he warned Mr Needham but he carried on and blamed Asian drivers for the ills of the taxi trade.

Mr Needham’s friend and neighbour Stephen Wright, Chesterfield branch chairman of the Private Hire and Hackney Association Paul Mann, and fellow taxi driver David Hopton described him as “caring and good man”, “a responsible operator and no threat to the public”, and “one of the most honest blokes”.

However, Magistrates dismissed Mr Needham’s appeal though stressed that they did not doubt his devotion to the taxi trade and to the public.

Following the hearing, Councillor Andy Bellamy, Chesterfield Borough Council’s chair of appeals and regulatory committee, said: “We take the welfare of passengers travelling in taxis in the borough very seriously and we will take action to award penalty points and suspend or revoke licenses where necessary.

“We will also not tolerate people using abusive and offensive language to our staff.

“I am pleased that magistrates have recognised the severity of the case and upheld this suspension.”

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

REVEALED: Westerham pervert was council’s minicab driver for disabled children

A pervert driving instructor worked as a minicab driver for disabled children on behalf of Kent County Council, the Chronicle can reveal.

Matthew Ottley, 40, formerly of High Street, Westerham, was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on Friday to four and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, and arranging or facilitating child prostitution or pornography.

He previously ran the Edenbridge-based minicab company Matt’s Taxis, which he stood down from in March 2014.

During his time as a minicab driver Ottley was on the council’s list of recommended drivers for transporting disabled children to school.

A Kent County Council spokesman said: “KCC held taxi contracts with Mr Ottley until summer 2014. We did not receive any complaints about him.”

He also ran Westerham-based driving school I Drive Safely, which was an AA franchise.

A spokesman from the AA said: “We suspended this individual as soon as we heard about these serious allegations last summer, and he then resigned while under suspension. At the time, he had a clear DBS check.”

They added that in the future after his release, “he would not be offered a franchise as any potential instructor must have a clean DBS check”.

A Sexual Harm Prevention Order has been issued against Ottley for 10 years, which means he will have to follow strict restrictions around children and when using the internet after his release.

Detective constable Caroline White said: “Ottley planned to film these young girls for his own gratification and while thankfully this didn’t take place, the consequences of his intentions are likely to remain with his victims for a long time. Both of these girls did the right thing in telling staff at their school of their concerns.

“Their courage has ensured that Ottley has been brought to justice and I hope now that both of these children and their families can move on with their lives.”

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

Uber drivers spotted DEFECATING in gardens on millionaire’s row

a minicab driver last year in Manchester

UBER rivers have been accused of POOING in the gardens of multi-million pound homes as they try to make cash on lucrative airport runs.

And when well-heeled villagers in the leafy Stanwell, Surrey, complain about the potty behaviour, they say expletives are hurled at them from the foul-mouthed drivers.

Vigilante residents in the area, where many homes are worth over £3million, are now naming and shaming the cabbies by posting images of them on Facebook.

A newly-launched Facebook group called “Uber off out of Stanwell” protestors claim claim drivers from the app-based minicab service use their gardens as toilets, swear at residents and toss food waste and litter out of their cab windows while on a run to nearby Heathrow Airport.

A spokesman for the group said: “All that Uber is interested in is profit and how many drivers use this app and how many people they get to use this app.”

Campaigners have been naming and shaming minicab drivers by posting images of them on the Facebook page.

The spokesman said there are at least 20 to 30 Uber drivers who regularly park and congregate outside shops, causing disabled and elderly people to park farther away.

He says abuse from minicab drivers has still not improved, despite Uber saying it is monitoring the situation and urging residents to report the behaviour so it could ‘take appropriate action’.

He said: “It has upset us all beyond belief. You have to scream and scream before someone listens and when they do it’s too late.

“All we need is the community to join together and get our streets back. I’m not asking for David Cameron to come down.

“We want our streets back. All we want is our community back and for it not to be used as a free car park.

“It’s opened my eyes to the wider implications Uber could have on London’s cab drivers.

“The ultimate solution is if David Cameron and Boris Johnson want Uber to be part of our society, then let them have the same rules and conditions as the black cab drivers.

“Let’s see how long Uber lasts – because it won’t.”

Uber said since receiving complaints it had stopped allowing drivers to receive dispatches on residential streets in the areas around Heathrow.

A spokesman said: “We have been closely monitoring the situation and can see on our mapping system that there are no cars logged into the Uber app on these streets.

“We have sent a representative from Uber to the area and can confirm that there are no Uber vehicles there.

“We will continue to monitor this and would ask residents to let us know of any issues by going to t.uber.com/lhr_offence.”

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

Lincoln taxi drivers told to pay for college courses or risk losing licence (and they aren’t happy)

Taxi drivers in Lincoln fear they will be thousands of pounds out of pocket after being told they need to take a college course or risk losing their licence.

The City of Lincoln Council wants drivers to take a BTEC qualification covering customer care, public protection, health and safety and routes and fares.

But some drivers say they will lose money because they will have to take a week off work to complete the course.

Taxi driver Helen Glover told the Echo: “My partner and I who are both taxi drivers in Lincoln have just been informed that the council are making us do a BTEC course that will cost £240 each.

“This is for all taxi drivers. Also it is a total of 35 hours so that will be a week off work to do this course – that’s in excess of £400 each.

“My partner has been doing this job for nearly 40 years and I can safely say he knows the job and don’t think he needs a bit of paper to say he can.

“I have worked with the public for 30 years and been driving a private hire vehicle for over eight.

“We already have a CRB check and driving licences checked and cars mot’ed twice a year.

“Insurance is expensive and now if we don’t do this course we won’t be able to renew our badges.

“If this course was done online or free it would still rile us bit if you worked in a supermarket and they wanted you to do extra training they would pay for it so why not the council?”

Another taxi driver said that he did an NVQ a few years ago which has made absolutely no difference to how he drives or deals with the public.

Councillor Ric Metcalfe, leader of the City of Lincoln Council, said: “I fully understand the reaction of experienced taxi drivers.

“The council has an important role in public protection. Everybody who gets in a taxi needs to know they’re getting a good and consistent service.

“This is really about training arising from new risks that councils across the country are being more aware of.

“One of the modules is about safeguarding children. Taxi drivers have a year in which to complete the course, and it should be possible to complete it without loss of earnings.”

From March 7, it will become council policy that all drivers must have the BTEC Introduction to the Role of the Taxi and Private Hire Driver.

Kevin Barron, licensing manager, said: “The City of Lincoln Council is committed to ensuring the city’s residents and visitors are able to use a service that conforms to a high standard of service, safety and comfort.

“The new policy takes into account the licensing requirements and experiences of other councils, and introduces extra measures required in terms of training and the qualifications required for drivers.

“The requirement for training will enhance the service provided to the travelling public and also the professional status of drivers.

“The BTEC certificate is nationally recognised, used by many other authorities and is locally available.

“We invited more than 500 interested parties including drivers and operators to give their views on the draft policy but just over four per cent chose to respond.

“These views were taken into account when a decision on the policy was made.”

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

Feb 17

Bogus “taxi” driver raped woman, 43, after luring her into his car on Canal Street

The man pulled up alongside the woman near to Bar Pop as she headed to a cab rank on Canal Street, and said he was a taxi driver

A rapist who posed as a taxi driver to entice a woman into his car is being hunted by police.

The 43-year-old victim was heading home after a night out with friends in the Canal Street area of Manchester when she was attacked between midnight and 2am on Saturday.

Police say she started to make her way to a taxi rank on Canal Street when a maroon car pulled up alongside her near to Bar Pop.

The driver told her he was a taxi driver and she got inside the car. He stopped in a car park in Norton Street in Salford and pulled her from the back seat and raped her.

Detectives hunting the man want to speak to any witnesses. The are urging women to stay together when they are out in the city and use only licenced taxi companies or designated taxi ranks.

Det Insp Debbie Oakes from Greater Manchester Police’s Serious Sexual Offences Unit said: “We are offering support to this woman after her ordeal and have launched an investigation into what happened.

“We do not know the exact time the woman left her friends and got into the maroon coloured car but we estimate that it would have been between midnight and 2am.

“We are asking anyone who was out in the Canal Street area of Manchester on Friday night into the early hours of Saturday morning to think back.

“Do you remember seeing a maroon coloured car in the area? Do you know who may have been driving that car?

“We will have an increased police presence in the city centre, particularly around Canal Street, but we would remind people to use licensed taxi companies by either pre-booking or going to a designated taxi rank.

“Stay together on a night out and never get into an unknown car without checking it is a licensed taxi first. If unsure, go to a taxi rank particularly if you are on your own.”

The man was black with short, dark, curly hair. He had a tattoo on his hand and discolouration on his cheek.

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 0161 856 6580 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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

Feb 17

UK weather: Minicab driver killed when building in central London collapsed onto her car named as Julie Sillitoe

The 49-year-old mini cab driver was in a Skoda Octavia car when the front of a building in Holborn collapsed onto it

Tragic: A woman who died when part of a building collapsed onto the car she was driving in central London last night has been named as mum-of-three Julie Sillitoe

A woman who died when part of a building collapsed onto her car in central London last night has been named as mum-of-three Julie Sillitoe.

The 49-year-old mini cab driver, from north London, was in a Skoda Octavia car when the front of a building in Holborn collapsed onto it during a fierce storm.

Police were called to the scene opposite Holborn Tube Station at 11.03pm to reports of three occupants trapped inside.

Despite the work of emergency services, Mrs Sillitoe was pronounced dead at the scene.

The other two occupants were sat in the rear of the car. A 25-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman have been taken to hospital.

They are in non-life threatening conditions.

Next of kin have been informed of Mrs Sillitoe’s death and a post-mortem examination will take place in due course.

Mrs Sillitoe was driving a licensed minicab and the two other people were her passengers.

Cordons are currently in place to secure the building and protect public safety.

The road remains closed and motorists are being urged to avoid the area as it is likely to be closed for some time.

Officers from Camden investigate the circumstances of the incident.

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

Feb 15

100 Years Later, Celebrating the Taxis That Saved Paris

Launch media viewer The Renault AG1 taxi is referred to as the “Marne Taxi’ after it brought troops to the front during that World War I battle.

PARIS — The echoes of the guns of August 1914 had barely subsided when France faced its first crisis of World War I. By early September, the German army had moved through Belgium and was within 30 miles of Paris; the French government was preparing to decamp to Bordeaux, and panic spread through the city.

The French were back on their heels. Gen. Joseph Joffre organized a counterattack, and by Sept. 6 his troops were fighting the Germans along the Marne River. With the outcome — and possibly the fate of France — in the balance, General Joffre called for reinforcements from Paris.

But the railways were clogged and no trucks were available, so the military commander of Paris, Gen. Joseph Gallieni, hailed the city’s taxi drivers. On the evening of Sept. 6, hundreds of cabs assembled at Les Invalides, the military hospital, and by morning a convoy of impossibly top-heavy Renault AG1s with tiny 1.2-liter 2-cylinder engines was puttering toward the front.

The AG1 was the Checker cab of its day. Simple and sturdy, it became the standard Paris taxi in 1905. By 1907, there were 1,500 clattering over the cobblestones.

By the end of Sept. 7, some 600 taxis, each making several runs, had delivered 3,000 troops. It is not known whether the passengers tipped the cabbies — but they tipped the battle to the French.

“It’s a small number, yes, but they made the difference,” said Aurélie Perreten, assistant director of the Musée de la Grande Guerre in Meaux, France. “That’s why we talk about the Miracle of the Marne.”

Yet while the French halted the Germans at the Marne, they were not strong enough to mount an offensive. Four years of trench warfare lay ahead, a stalemate that led to the development of the tank and poison gas.

A display at Retromobile included three Renault FT17 tanks, the first to use the modern configuration of swiveling turret, rear engine and front-mounted driver; a number of bone-shaking rubber-tired military trucks; and two “Marne taxis.”

A hundred years later, all of Europe is pausing to remember World War I. But the anniversary is perhaps felt most deeply in France, where much of the combat on the Western Front took place.

“For us, 2014 is really important,” Ms. Perreten said. “French people were affected in the soil, in their country. Everyone had a cousin, friend, son, grandfather who died.”

source: http://www.nytimes.com/

Feb 15

Birchanger taxi driver seen using mobile telephone loses licence in council prosecution

A TAXI driver from Birchanger has lost his driving licence after an Uttlesford District Council enforcement officer spotted him using a mobile phone while driving.

Simon Yardley, licensed as a private hire/hackney carriage (PH/HC) driver by the authority, appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court yesterday (Wednesday, February 12) to answer the charge.

He pleaded not guilty but was convicted and banned from driving for six months under the penalty points totting-up procedure. He was also fined £125 and was ordered to pay full costs of £900.11 and a victim surcharge of £20.

On July 1 last year, Mr Yardley was seen by the UDC officer using his mobile while driving his taxi in Saffron Walden town centre.

Since he already had nine points on his licence and three of these were for using a mobile while driving, the council decided to prosecute.

Cllr Alastair Walters, UDC’s cabinet member for community safety with responsibility for licensing, said: “Mr Yardley will now appear before the licensing and environmental health committee for them to consider revocation of his PH/HC licence as he now falls below our standards as he has been disqualified from driving.

“He will not meet our standards until three years after the disqualification expires or 12 months after the licence is reissued, whichever is later.”

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

Feb 15

Kerb-crawling Radstock taxi driver ‘overcome by temptation’, court hears

-0430-POLITICS-Justice_-006A kerb-crawling taxi driver who has repeatedly breached an ASBO banning him from touring red light areas ‘had a problem with temptation’, a court has heard.

Kingsley Hobbs, 54, of Mendip Way, Radstock, admitted blatantly breaching his existing ASBO out of ‘force of habit’ when he appeared before Bristol Magistrates Court.

He faces a three year extension of his ban and may even lose his livelihood if it is decided to withdraw the taxi licence he has held for more than 20 years.

Hobbs was handed the three-year ASBO in January 2012 but was caught in the banned areas again by Avon and Somerset Police vice officers on March 13, 2013 and January 17, 2014.

The court heard that detectives had been carrying out a proactive, plain clothes patrol in March(2013??) when they spotted Hobbs’s green Skoda Octavia twice in 20 minutes.

After contacting CCTV operators, they found he had cruised round three of the city’s red light districts 13 times in an hour.

In January this year, Hobbs had picked up a couple in Bath in his taxi following a rugby game and returned them back to Bristol before travelling through the areas where he is banned.

Prosecution solicitor Jeremy Oliver said that, during an interview with police, Hobbs admitted if it wasn’t for the banning order he would ‘be down there every week’ and that he ‘couldn’t say’ what he would have done if he had spotted a working girl while cruising round the district.

Mr Oliver said Hobbs had an interest in working girls and liked to ‘keep up with the gossip in the red-light districts’.

The court heard evidence from Tina Newman from the Avon and Somerset Police vice team which stated that it was an ‘almost unique situation’ to have someone breaching a kerb-crawling ASBO which prevents offenders from entering Stapleton Road, Portland Square, Warwick Road and Fishponds Road areas.

Mr Oliver, who said he will also be informing Bath and North East Somerset Council which has the power to issue or revoke a taxi licence, added: “The prosecution think extending the ban is necessary and proportionate. He seems to have a problem with temptation and the ASBO helps with this, although it does not eradicate it.”

He said there was a “massive problem” with on-street prostitution in the area and said local residents reported finding used condoms and drugs paraphernalia discarded near their homes.

Defence solicitor Sally Halliday said her client admitted he was ‘foolish’ and said he had simply driven through the areas ‘for old times’ sake’ rather than with the intention of soliciting women.

She described him as lonely and isolated and said he had spent the past 20 years working the night shift for a taxi firm in Bath while caring for his sick mother during the day.

Magistrates described breaching an ASBO as a “serious offence” which could trigger a five-year prison sentence. The case was adjourned for three weeks to give the Probation Service time to prepare reports.

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

Feb 15

Taxi driver threatened to sexually assault woman if she did not get into his cab

Detectives have now issued an efit of the man after he made the comments at a petrol station in Whalley Range

A taxi driver threatened to sexually attack a woman if she did not get in his cab.

Detectives have issued an efit of the man after he made “disturbing” comments at a petrol station in Whalley Range.

The victim, in her 20s, was walking along Wilbraham Road in the evening of December 4 when the driver whistled at her as he filled his car with petrol.

She ignored him but moments later he drove up alongside her in his Hackney cab.

He asked her to get inside and told her he had something to tell her.

After repeated attempts to talk her into the vehicle he said: “Get in my car or I will sexually assault you.”

The victim managed to escape.

Police are hunting the offender and have released an efit of him.

He was described as Asian, in his 30s, 5ft 6in tall with a bald head.

At the time he was wearing a cream cardigan and combat-style trousers.

Pc Peter Brobbey, said: “The victim understandably felt threatened and intimidated throughout this incident, which lasted several minutes.

“The man has made some disturbing threats and we need to identify him.

“If you recognise someone from the description, particularly if this matches someone who drives a black cab, please get in touch.”

Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 4423, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.   

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

Feb 14

Brain damaged Bath man in compensation fight after taxi fall

A Bath man who suffered brain damage when he jumped or fell from a moving taxi has issued High Court proceedings to claim hundreds of thousands of pounds against the cab’s driver who thought his passenger was trying to do a runner.

The claim, issued on behalf of 26-year-old Kristopher Hicks, from Weston, says that on November 2, 2010 he was in a taxi with his girlfriend Abigail Noad being driven from Orange Grove taxi rank to his then home in Foxhill.

It says that when the taxi reached its destination, she got out, but before she had a chance to pay, the driver pulled away.

High Court documents say that driver Michael Young, who lives in The Oval area, continued to drive the vehicle until Mr Hicks either fell or jumped from the moving cab in North Road in Combe Down, sustaining severe head injuries.

In a police interview, Mr Young said he had become suspicious after hearing Ms Noad joke that the couple weren’t going to do a runner.

James Davies, a serious injury expert at law firm Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office, who is acting for Mr Hicks, said: “Kris suffered devastating brain injuries in the incident that were not only life-changing for him, but also his devoted family.

“Whilst he has undergone extensive treatment and rehabilitation, he has developed post-traumatic epilepsy, headaches, fatigue, suffers social and behavioural problems and has no sense of taste or smell.

“He is reliant on 24-hour care from his mum and is unable to work.”

He said they were looking for a lifetime settlement which took into account Mr Hicks’s future needs.

Mr Young, who the claim says was negligent because he failed to give the couple adequate opportunity to pay, declined to comment.

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

Feb 14

Taxi license cap now in force across Worcester

AN historic cap on taxi numbers in Worcester has finally been agreed – after years of gripes around congestion and pollution.

Worcester City Council has voted through a new rule which means no more cabbies will be allowed a licence until numbers fall sharply.

The city currently has 263 hackney carriages, and the cap is set at 230, which means at least 34 must quit before any more are dished out.

The decision was finalised by the council’s licensing committee last night, despite concerns it may take years for the numbers to fall, if ever.

Under current Government legislation taxi drivers can transfer plates to other people – effectively sell them on at a price – rather than voluntarily give them up.

The committee voted the cap through despite concerns it could crate a cartel for drivers.

Back in 2001 Worcester had just 100 hackney carriages, but since then the numbers have nearly tripled, sparking years of concern about harm to the environment and congestion.

The drivers themselves widely backed the cap, leading to the crunch vote taking place last night.

Prices for a licence have also been whacked up £27, taking it to £153 for renewals, to make it less appealing.

Councillor Jo Hodges said: “We’ve all been waiting for this moment to actually happen for a very long time.

“There was a lot of inpatience that we weren’t able to do this before, the majority of people do recognise we’ve reached the point where we do have sufficient numbers of taxis in Worcester to meet demand.”

The cap is being set at 230 because Worcester had that many taxis back in September, which is when an independent survey was done suggesting there is no need for any more.

Councillor Ken Carpenter said: “We’ve got more than enough taxis, that’s been proved.”

Some other politicians said they harboured doubts over whether it will make a difference.

Councillor Simon Cronin said: “As long as the plates remain transferable, we will never reach this figure.

“As long as there’s a cap, the plates have value and nobody will willingly give them up – the best we can say is that this cap will stop the numbers getting higher.”

Niall McMenamin, from the licensing team, said there is “no legal standing” to stop plates being transferred to new owners, but that caps have reduced taxi numbers in other parts of the country, like Chesterfield.

“In other parts of the country going down the ‘capping route’ has seen numbers fall,” he said.

It was backed unanimously.

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

Feb 12

French taxi drivers to continue strike

A debate involving French taxis was far from resolved on Tuesday in what unions say is unfair competition posed by a surge in popularity of private chauffeured cars, also known as tourist vehicules with chauffeur (VTCs).

After a strike disrupted traffic on Monday, the government named an official mediator Tuesday in the ongoing transportation drama.

Thomas Thévenoud, Socialist deputy from Saône-et-Loire, has been given two months to seek an agreement between the two camps.

Meanwhile, the unappeased union called for the strikes to continue until the government stops licensing VTCs altogether. A new day of strikes has been scheduled for March 13.

Differences in regulation

Would-be taxi drivers face exorbitant fees ahead of receiving an operating license, often running into the hundreds of thousands.

“I paid 235,000 euros for my taxi license and must conform to a series of strict regulations,” Philippe Morival, a 30-year cab driver veteran, told AFP on Monday. “VTC drivers, by contrast, can rent their cars from abroad and don’t answer to anyone.”

“Today, we are facing direct competition from VTCs that work virtually without regulation,” taxi union member Karim Lalouani concurred. “We are not fighting on equal terms. It’s like asking two boxers to enter the ring, but one has both hands tied behind his back.”

Previous decrees

In a bid to assuage the mounting discontent from taxi drivers, the French state in late December imposed a mandatory 15-minute delay between customer booking and pick-up for VTCs in a bid to give taxis an edge. But the Council of State suspended the decree earlier this month, saying it was a “serious and immediate infringement on the economic interests” of VTC firms.

The government on Saturday announced another attempt to find some common ground, saying it had established a commission to ensure “sustainable and balanced competition” between the taxis and the VTCs.

But many of those affected remain unconvinced.

“The commission is a gimmick,” said Michel Charbonnier, a 15-year taxi veteran.

source: (FRANCE 24 with AFP) http://www.france24.com/

Feb 12

Union chief hits out at Dundee taxi marshal plan

Dundee taxi drivers’ vehicles are being repossessed as they struggle to cope with rising costs — and more could follow, a union chief has warned.

Stuart Elder, president of the GMB Dundee WAV (wheelchair-accessible vehicles) Taxi Branch — which has more than 70 members — says cab drivers will suffer if they have to pay for the introduction of taxi marshals.

The idea is being discussed by operators and Dundee City Council, with Stephen Graeme of Dundee Taxi Drivers’ Association issuing his support last week.

It’s proposed the cost of marshals — who would organise late-night ranks at weekends — could be recovered from drivers’ licence fees.

“This is going to cost either taxi drivers, or it’s going to cost the public,” said Mr Elder, who is also a driver.

“We pay in excess of £100,000 a year for a cab enforcement unit. We pay Police Scotland a lot of money for a unit that should be policing the taxi ranks. It’s hard to make money out there as it is.

“There are people out there having to run very expensive wheelchair-accessible cars. We’ve got to go to special dealers and these cars are in excess of £20,000.

“There are even guys getting their cars repossessed.

“At the end of last year, there were three that lost their livelihoods.

“It costs me £1,300 each month before I make any money — that’s between my tax, my insurance and office fees.”

Erik Thoresen, chair of Dundee Hackney Association, agrees.

He said: “We can’t afford more costs.

“If there was a significant demand, a real need, we would understand. But we don’t see any need whatsoever for this.”

Councillor Stewart Hunter, licensing convener, said: “At the moment, the council hasn’t taken any decision. This has been a suggestion by one of the taxi groups.

“We’ve got to say: is it practical? Is it financially viable?

“If both these things are met, it’s something we would consider.

“The main priority is what’s best for the users — that’s our priority and always has to be.

“There’s still work to be done on this before anything comes through to the licensing committee.

“We will listen to both sides and make a decision based on what’s best.”

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

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