London minicab controller arrested as ‘Isil agent’ in Bangladesh


Samiun Rahman was arrested in Bangladesh

Samiun Rahman, 24, is accused of travelling from London to Syria and Bangladesh, allegedly recruiting jihadists to fight for Islamic State

An East London minicab operator ran a Bangladesh terrorist cell recruiting jihadists to join Islamic State’s and al-Qaeda-linked militias in Syria, police in Dhaka have said.

Samiun Rahman, a 24 year old radio-cab controller of Bangladeshi origin, entered the country earlier this year and began targeting local Muslims through the Facebook page of a moderate Islamic television channel, they said. Two of those he allegedly recruited were arrested last week as they prepared to travel to Syria via Turkey posing as religious students.

He was produced in court in Dhaka on Monday where he was remanded in custody for three days under Bangladesh’s Anti-Terrorism Act. He is accused of criminal conspiracy and supporting a banned militant organisation. If he is found guilty he could be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Dhaka police said in a statement that he had confessed “he was staying in Bangladesh to recruit jihadists for the IS and Nusra brigade (an affiliate of Al-Qaeda). He further disclosed he took part in jihadi activities in Syria between September and December 2013”. Detectives are now investigating how his alleged recruitment operation was funded.

Police said they had learned of his recruitment drive when seven alleged Islamic militants arrested earlier this month said a British man known as ‘Ibn Hamden’ was approaching militants to join Isil fighters in Syria. One of those suspects was an associate of Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, the 21 year old student behind the failed 2012 attack on New York’s Federal Reserve Bank.

According to police Mr. Rahman had adopted a more radical Islamic lifestyle after he was arrested in London for being drunk two years ago and was detained for several days. After he was released, he advertised on the internet for an Arabic teacher to improve his understanding of the Quran.

In the advert, posted online in November 2012, he said he had struggled with learning the language online and wanted to study “classical Arabic so that I can understand the Quran, preferably in the Middle East, Egypt, Yemen, Morocco”.

He later traveled to Morocco and Mauritania before spending three months in Syria late last year. He arrived in Bangladesh on February 25th this year to begin his Isil recruitment drive, detectives said.

In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph as he waited to be remanded at Dhaka’s Metropolitan Magistrates Court, Mr. Rahman denied the charges and said he had no involvement in terrorism or with jihadist groups and that he had simply returned to Bangladesh to deal with a family property dispute.

He confirmed he had travelled with a friend to Syria last year but said it was for a humanitarian aid mission. He had been detained by British counter-terrorism officers after he landed at Gatwick on his return, but they had accepted his explanation and released him after a few hours, he said.

He declined to comment on police claims that he had been radicalised after being arrested and jailed for being drunk and said his conviction was now “spent.” He had studied the Quran to “become a better person”, he said.

Detectives had arrested him at his family home in Sylhet and had held him for five days before staging a fake arrest at a Dhaka railway station on Sunday, he claimed.

He said he believed police had arrested him after they intercepted a telephone conversation in which he discussed his work in Syria with another suspected militant who was recently arrested by police. He conceded the person he was talking to may have been involved in terrorism but declined to explain what they had discussed.

“Whoever I was speaking to maybe is amongst this scenario. They have no proof against me…and just because I spoke to someone about being in Syria, it wasn’t even in Syria, just the border, I think they go over-happy, something like this and they must have contacted a few other people and they said some stuff, but they did not mention my name. I saw the transcripts of the phone calls of the other persons. They never mentioned my name, and now I am under suspicion for trying to take people to Syria”, he said.

At Mr. Rahman’s family home near Grays Inn Road, Holborn, east London, a woman who said he was his sister said the family had “no idea what was going on”.

“We don’t know what he was doing out there. We don’t know anything about it. I can’t really speak to you”, she said.

A neighbour said Mr. Rahman had turned to Islam while serving a prison sentence.

“Before he went to prison, he wasn’t religious at all. He drank all the time. He was completely antisocial and always arguing with his older brother about this and that.

“He’s lived here with his mum and sisters for years. Then he got put inside. When he came out after a few months he was wearing the full Muslim gear, the hat, the robe, the beard – everything. I couldn’t even recognise him.

“I assumed he was putting it all on so he could get out of prison early. But instead of standing around on the streets, he started going to the mosque all the time. All the drink stopped.

“But then he went away to the Middle East. I know his mum told one of the neighbours she was worried he’d gone to fight with ISIS. It must be terrible for her.”

Mr. Rahman is accused of recruiting would-be Isil fighters in Dhaka and in Sylhet, in the north of the country, where his family are believed to have relatives.


Woman sexually assaulted by bogus taxi driver after Freshers’ Week night out


Holy Name Church on Oxford Road

The 19-year-old left the University of Manchester’s Students’ Union on Oxford Road in Manchester city centre after attending the Pangaea night.

A young woman was sexually assaulted by a thug posing as a taxi driver after a night out at a Freshers’ Week event.

The 19-year-old left the University of Manchester’s Students’ Union on Oxford Road in Manchester city centre after attending the Pangaea night.

After looking for a taxi, she approached a car outside The Holy Name Church. The man inside said he was a taxi driver, so she got in.

But she was driven to an unknown location and sexually assaulted. The pervert then dropped her off in Fallowfield and drove off.

The terrifying ordeal happened in the early hours of the morning on Sunday, September 21.

The woman is now being supported by specially trained officers.

Thousands of students descended upon the university’s Students’ Union for the event on Saturday 20, one of a number Freshers’ Week nights out.

The man was mixed race, in his 30s, thin with short, shaved hair and wearing glasses. The car was a dark coloured saloon.

Police are now appealing for witnesses to come forward – particularly those at the Pangaea event – and are urging students to only use black cabs or to pre-book licensed taxis.

Det Con Elizabeth Howe said: “This was understandably very distressing for this young woman and she is being fully supported by specially trained officers.

“We would like to hear from anyone who was out in the area or at the Pangaea event itself last Saturday night into the early hours of Sunday morning, who may have any information that could assist our investigation.

“We would also like to remind the public 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.”

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 0161 856 4146 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.



Scunthorpe taxi drivers who turn down fares will now be punished


John Fleming, the chairman of the Scunthorpe branch of the National Taxi Association

SCUNTHORPE cabbies have cautiously accepted a new points system that will punish them for refusing to take fares.

The new rules were prompted by claims some drivers were refusing to take people on short fares.

North Lincolnshire Council’s Licensing Taxi Policy suggests drivers could receive eight to 12 points on their Hackney licence if they refuse fares “without a reasonable excuse” – with 12 points meaning they could lose their licence.

Cabbies previously raised concerns in the Telegraph that the system would put them in danger as they would be forced to take customers who were verbally or physically threatening.

John Fleming, owner of Triple A Taxis and chairman of the Scunthorpe branch of the National Taxi Association, said: “The council has taken the decision that they will implement the points system irrespective.

“We reiterated if our members end up getting points we will end up appealing the decision.

“We want to make sure that the appeal process is fair and independent.

“We are worried that if there is an appeal, it will be heard by the same panel that implemented the points in the first place.

“I think we are going to see what happens and keep a close eye on it. If it turns out the appeal mechanism is unreasonable, a judgement will be made on that.”

Mr Fleming also said he was pleased that his association is represented on North Lincolnshire Council’s taxi forum with three of its members sitting on the panel.

“My main objective is to get more taxi drivers into our organisation so we will have a bigger sphere of influence,” he said.

“Our new association has over 100 members, that’s about 50 per cent of Hackney drivers in the area and we hope to have more.”

Councillor Keith Vickers, who chairs the licensing committee, said the rules were fair.

He said: “The important thing is we can work together with the drivers.

“If somebody does something wrong they get so many points and it will come before the committee.

“We don’t want to suspend somebody for a small misdemeanour as it’s their livelihood.

“I can understand the drivers will be worried, but nobody should be frightened.

“They will have chance to appeal in front of members of the committee. It’s a fair system and raises standards.

“This came about because drivers were refusing short fares. It’s better for the people who are using the taxis.”

Mr Vickers added that the points will stay on a driver’s licence for three years and as it’s a new system there may be a few difficulties to iron out.

No driver has at this stage been prosecuted using the new system.

National legislation states that it is an offence to refuse to carry a passenger unless they have an infectious disease, have an animal with them (except if it is a service or assistance animal) or if someone is deceased.

Read more:

Fake Newcastle cabbie kidnapped young reveller before sexually abusing her

Businessman Mohammed Malik is facing years behind bars after he kidnapped and molested a 20-year-old who thought he was a taxi driver

Prowling the city centre in his black estate car, this is fake cabbie Mohammed Malik on the night he kidnapped and sexually abused a young reveller.

Stalking the streets looking for a victim, the businessman is caught on CCTV picking up a drunk 20-year-old who thought he was a taxi driver.

The victim got into Malik’s car near The Gate complex, on Newgate Street, and asked to be taken the short distance to the place in the city centre where she was staying with friends.

But instead Malik drove her to the West End of Newcastle, parked up in a secluded spot and subjected the terrified young woman to a sordid sex attack.

He was snared after three men who spotted the woman getting into the car noted down the registration number and texted it to police.

Now the 30-year-old, of Beaconsfield Street, Arthur’s Hill, Newcastle, is facing years in prison after a jury at Newcastle Crown Court convicted him of kidnap and sexual assault.

Prosecutor Julian Smith said the 20-year-old was a visitor to the city and had been out celebrating a birthday with friends in March when she started looking for a taxi around 4am.

Mr Smith said: “The complainant found herself drunk and alone, looking for a taxi to get her back to her friends.

“Unfortunately for her, the car she got into, believing it to be a taxi, is nothing of the sort.

“She found herself in the defendant’s car, who drove her to a secluded area to the west of the city, away from the city centre. He would not let her leave the car or take her to her friends or the place where she was staying.

“He took her away under false pretences, he would not let her leave and he then took the opportunity to seriously sexually assault her.”

The court heard the young woman and her friends had been to a number of bars, including Popworld, Kiss and Destiny.

They ended up in a takeaway near The Gate, at which point the 20-year-old left and went looking for a cab.

As she was a stranger to Newcastle, she didn’t realise she was only 200 yards from the place where her and her friends were staying.

She was unsuccessful in trying to hail a taxi outside Sinner’s bar and so started walking towards the Haymarket, up Newgate Street.

Mr Smith said: “At that point the defendant’s car comes into view driving down the road away from the Haymarket and it stops in the layby taxi rank outside Debenham’s.

“She approaches him and speaks to him them gets in the car.”

Malik, who manages a number of properties, including a takeaway, drove off with the woman in his VW Golf estate.

Three men passing by saw the woman getting into the car, which they noticed was not a taxi.

They made a note of the registration number and texted it to police. This would ultimately help nail Malik but could not stop the attack.

The pervert drove up Elswick Road with the kidnapped woman, parking up in a secluded spot on Bentinck Road, Elswick.

Despite her screams of “No”, he pulled her into the back seat by her arms and legs and subjected her to a sexual assault.

Mr Smith said: “He would have known she was lost because she told him she was not from round here.

“She was trusting him, believing him to be a taxi driver.

“It lasted some time and eventually, despite having no clue where she was, she told him he made her sick and had the courage to leave the car.

“She rang her friends as she ran away, she was in great distress.

“Fortunately she met two drunken Good Samaritans who stayed with her.”

Malik then reappeared in his car, acting as if nothing had happened and asking if she was going to get back in. She refused and the passers-by flagged down a genuine taxi to take her back into town to her friends.

Police were called and when the woman was examined they found bruising to her arms and legs.

Malik was arrested later the same day as a result of his number plate having been sent to the police.

His DNA was also recovered from the victim’s clothing.

Malik, who had denied kidnap and sexual assault, will be sentenced next month. He was remanded in custody and faces a significant jail term.

Judge John Milford told him: “Doubtless you have been warned as to the sort of sentence you are likely to receive in terms of years.”



New taxi laws could let sex offenders drive cabs, critics have said

New taxi laws have been criticised as they could open the door for ‘rapists to drive cabs’.

Critics have said the Government’s Deregulation Bill, which will be debated in the Lords next month, could permit anyone to drive a licensed vehicle without going through a council vetting process.

The proposals come as the full extent of taxi drivers’ involvement in the Rotherham child abuse scandal – in which some victims were raped in cabs after being picked up outside schools – continues to emerge.

Under deregulation, a licensed driver could operate outside his area and enforcement officers in that area would not be able to check if he has been vetted.

Rachel Griffin, director of personal safety campaign group the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said: “The changes are going to put people across the country in real danger as they will make it much easier for someone with a past of violence and sexual offences to pose as a legitimate driver.”

Currently, anyone looking to operate as a private hire vehicle operator must obtain a licence from a council, which checks for previous criminal convictions and can refuse licences if it feels the applicant is not a ‘fit and proper person’.

Operators are able to operate only in the area in which they are licensed.

A Department of Transport spokesman said: “The Deregulation Bill will not put taxi passengers at risk and drivers will continue to have their backgrounds routinely checked. Councils will have strong tools to assess drivers’ and operators’ suitability and to carry out enforcement activity.

“The Disclosure and Barring Service [which replaced the criminal Records Bureau] will allow licensing authorities to discover any new convictions during the lifetime of a driver’s licence.”

Police estimate there are more than 1,000 sexual assaults each year involving unlicensed cab drivers in London alone.

Read more:

LGA: Vulnerable children at risk from taxi licensing reforms


LGA press release

Plans to relax taxi laws could put children at greater risk of sexual exploitation, councils are warning.

Currently, anyone using a minicab can travel safe in the knowledge that the only person legally allowed to drive the car will have been through a rigorous council vetting process, including criminal records and medical history checks.

New government proposals within the Deregulation Bill, set to return to the House of Lords next month, will mean minicab licence holders will be able to allow other people to drive their vehicle when they are off-duty without any of those checks being carried out.

The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, is warning that this will make it easier for criminal gangs to exploit the system and use licensed vehicles to groom, rape and traffic children.

Independent reports into child sexual exploitation in both Rotherham and Rochdale found abusers used their minicabs to target vulnerable children, highlighting the need to ensure controls in this area remain as tight as possible.

Under the new proposals, someone already with a criminal background – such as for alleged sexual assaults, rapes and organised crime – could legally drive a branded vehicle, meaning they could use it to pick up passengers and target vulnerable children.

Cllr Ann Lucas OBE, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“Recent child sex abuse cases in Rotherham and Rochdale are a stark reminder of the position of trust that people put in taxi drivers and the vulnerability of some passengers.

“There is a determination across local government that nothing like this can be allowed to happen again. That is why we remain deeply concerned about the Government’s plan to relax taxi licensing laws which we believe will make it easier for criminal gangs to target vulnerable children for sexual exploitation.

“Anyone getting into a taxi or private hire vehicle should be assured that the only person allowed to drive the car has had their background thoroughly checked and vetted. The consequences for someone entering a branded vehicle where the driver has not been properly licensed and vetted by the council can be devastating. We should not be increasing the chances of that happening.

“Keeping children safe is our top priority and a responsibility councils take extremely seriously. It is imperative that the Government withdraws these plans so councils can continue to fully check everyone getting behind the wheel of a taxi or private hire vehicle to ensure vulnerable children are kept as safe as possible.”

Ministers suggest the fact the taxi licensing rules already apply in London means they can be rolled-out nationwide without the public being put at risk.

However, the Metropolitan Police estimate there are more than 1,000 sexual assaults each year involving taxi drivers in London alone.

Cllr Lucas added:

“Unlicensed taxis and touting have been endemic in the capital, providing an ideal cover for dangerous sexual predators. Instead of justifying an extension to these licensing rules, the state of the system in London actually provides strong evidence as to exactly why they cannot be rolled out nationwide.”

Mar 29

Burgler jailed after stealing minicab in St Helens

A “BLIND drunk” burglar sneaked within feet of his sleeping victim after breaking into a house to steal a car while three times over the drink-drive limit.

Alcoholic Craig Groves, 28, had drunk 12 cans of Strongbow in three hours before breaking into a family home in Catterall Avenue, St Helens, in October.

Joanne Maxwell, prosecuting, told Liverpool crown court that William Letsche, who lived at the address with his wife and daughter, had fallen asleep on the couch in the living room.

When he woke up at 1am he discovered the conservatory door and back gate were open and that the keys to both family cars had been stolen along with his wife’s handbag, purse and credit cards.

His Citroen Picasso, which he used as a minicab, and his wife’s Fiat Punto had been taken from the street outside.

They called the police who picked up Groves driving the Picasso around the St Helens Linkway and arrested him.

Groves, of Brunswick Street, St Helens, denied burglary, claiming he found the Picasso parked in the street with the key in the door, but was found guilty at trial

He admitted unauthorised taking of a motor vehicle, driving without a licence or insurance and driving with excess alcohol.

Ms Maxwell said Groves had 46 previous offences on his record and 21 convictions including theft, dishonesty, possession of cannabis and three previous convictions for drink driving.

Christine Redmond, defending, said he committed the burglary “on impulse”, adding: “His alcoholism seems to be at the root of the majority of his offending behaviour.”

Recorder Tanya Griffiths QC said: “The occupier was asleep on the couch feet from your point of entry. His presence must have been obvious to you but that did not deter you or your accomplice.

“When you saw the occupant on the couch you carried on, you didn’t go back.

“A confrontation then with a man who was blind drunk would have been terrifying for that man when he woke up and realised a drink-crazed man had been in his house.

“Immediate custody is the only an option for offences of this seriousness.”

She jailed Groves for three years for the burglary, gave him an extra four months for driving while drunk and banned him from driving for four years.

Read more: Liverpool Echo

Mar 29

Leeds cabbies warn changes will hit most vulnerable

A number of cab drivers in Leeds fear sweeping changes brought in by a national deregulation of their trade will affect the most vulnerable customers.

A coachload of campaigners from Leeds protesting against changes to historic laws of the taxi trade are set to travel to London to lobby parliament on April 30.

They are backing a campaign by Unite the union titled ‘No submission to the law commission’ and have support from disability campaigners in Leeds, who fear plans could mean many disabled people will lose out on their main form of transport.

Paul Landau, who chairs the Leeds Hackney Carriage branch of union Unite, said: “These sweeping changes will mean the most vulnerable people in our society are affected. Many people rely on using a hackney carriage as their primary method of transport. We are concerned because of the impact this will have on disabled users, vulnerable groups and customers overall. We do not feel the huge impact changes will have on people’s lives has been fully considered. Changes are being rushed through.”

The Government is currently considering scrapping Section 16 of the Transport Act 1985 – which allows councils to limit the number of hackney carriages in their local authority area based on supply and demand – as part of a review of ancient taxi laws.

It could also see a blurring of the lines between the hackney and private hire trades, and a relaxing of cross-city working which drivers fear could “destroy” trade on both sides.

Mr Landau added that as well as congestion and public safety issues, another problem arising from deregulation could be cross-border hiring and baton passing of private hire jobs.

Tim McSharry, of the Access Committee for Leeds, said: “We are supporting the lobby of parliament and hope people’s needs are taken into account. Many taxi drivers end up providing social care as they provide help for those who need it.”


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Mar 29

Taxi drivers in Cheltenham could join council working group

NEW working groups could be created in Cheltenham to consider the town’s taxis and licensing policies.

Cheltenham Borough Council wants to get cabbies on board as it looks at the way private hire and taxis are regulated.

It comes as licensing bosses are thinking of introducing a scheme to make taxis painted identically when cars are replaced by drivers.

Councillors will decide on Friday, April 5, whether or not to set up three working groups, with one looking at vehicle licensing, driver licensing and licensed operators.

Officers of the council hope to set up the groups by May and they will consist of six trade representatives, including both taxi and private hire licence holders, three councillors and two officers.

If the proposal is given the go-ahead, the council will be writing to taxi companies and drivers to invite them to join the committee.

Di Mitten, of Central Taxis in Royal Well Road, said it was not the first time the council had tried something like this – and it had been unsuccessful in the past.

She said: “This has all been tried before and not been successful.

“I guess there are different people involved so we will just have to wait and see, but they are always doing things like this.

“I am not sure whether we would be part of it or not, I guess we will have to wait and see.

“Taxis are faced with hundreds of problems at the moment – I just don’t know where to start.

“There are so many taxis on the roads, the fees are extortionate and they can dictate to us what we can and can’t do.”

Another taxi driver, who did not wish to be named, said: “It would be good to get more of a say in the future, but it’s been tried before and it doesn’t work.

“Personally I think it would just become a talking shop.

“With the recession the way it is we haven’t got time to be sat around chatting as we need to be out on the road earning money.

“But it is important we have a say in licensing for the future as it sometimes it has felt like people are making decisions in their ivory towers.

“Personally I would like to see less taxis on the road as more licences mean less cash for us all, so hopefully people will push for that.”

In his report, council officer Louis Krog said: “To permit as many trade representatives to contribute directly to the working groups, an individual will only be permitted to sit on one working group thereby allowing opportunity for up to 18 individuals to participate.”

Read more:

Mar 26

Telford taxi drivers handed cut in cost of licence fees

Taxi drivers in Telford this afternoon received a welcome cut in licence fees less than 12 months after the charges were increased.

Licensing chiefs at Telford & Wrekin Council backed a cut in fees for drivers to licence a private hire vehicle or black cab from £195 to £170 for a new 12-month licence, and from £195 to £160 for a licence renewal.

They also plan to effectively scrap fees for private hire operator licences who were charged £200 with £43 on top for each vehicle they run. They will instead have to pay a flat fee of £220.

Russell Griffin, spokesman for Telford & Wrekin Council, said the changes had been made to try to encourage and help people working in the trade in the borough.

The move follows two years of increases in costs for taxi drivers which saw hundreds of drivers move their contracts from Telford & Wrekin Council to Shropshire Council, which charged less for a licence.

But Mr Griffin said the reductions had not been made in a bid to bring the borough into line with Shropshire Council’s charges.

He said: “We have reviewed our licences to try and reduce the financial burden in the trade – we have been able to make the reductions by looking at the way that we provide the service and making efficiencies which have reduced the costs of the licences. We are pleased to be able to pass these savings on to the trade.”

A report to the licensing committee meeting, held today at Darby House, said: “Working closely with the new business support team, the licensing team will focus on pro-actively attracting and supporting potential licensees to make sure that the licensing process is as easy as possible for them to use.

“The licensing committee has been very clear that it views local licensing of a local taxi service as a priority – the significant reductions in operators’ fees and drivers and vehicles fees, along with service improvements, is a definite response to the feedback from the trade and members’ concerns to encourage those providing a taxi service in our borough, an absolutely essential public and business service, to come back and be locally regulated.”


Mar 26

What they describe as a ‘crackdown’ – some may describe as a fudge

Action call Councillor Terry Wire welcomed the safety courses.

Private hire drivers who illegally pick up people at the side of the road will soon have to take an exam to test their Highway Code knowledge.

Private hire drivers are not allowed to pick up people who have not pre-booked them.

If they do, they are technically not insured to drive.

In the past, Northampton Borough Council has taken such drivers to court, but following the closure of a number of magistrates courts across the county it now takes up to a year for cases to be heard.

To tackle the problem, the Guildhall is planning to introduce ‘safety awareness courses’ for first time offenders where they will be taught about the laws relating to cab driving and tested on their road skills.

Members of the borough council’s licensing committee welcomed the move during a meeting this week.

Councillor Terry Wire (Lab, St James) said: “If a young lady flags a private hire driver down on her way home from a nightclub, they’re not insured to drive.

“That’s a very serious offence and we have a responsibility to protect people from such drivers.”

It is planned that the four-hour course would cost £200 to sit. If a driver was caught picking up passengers again within five years, they would be sent to court.

Black cab drivers have said the problem of private hire drivers illegally picking up passengers at the side of the road in Northampton is growing.
Hackney Carriage drivers are allowed to pick up passengers 
who have not pre-booked, but private hire drivers are not.
 The secretary of the Hackney Drivers Association of Northampton, John Hills, said: “Dozens of hire car drivers are making a career out of this. It’s an immense public safety issue and an enormous drain on our income.”


Mar 26

Protesting taxi drivers call on Fenland District Council to prosecute FACT

Taxi driver Dave Humphrey delivering grant forms to Fenland Hall.

ANGRY taxi drivers converged on Fenland Hall today, as their spokesman handed in a letter calling on the district council to prosecute the community transport organisation FACT.

Taxi drivers claim that FACT is operating illegally by offering transport to members who do not qualify for the subsidised transport, and the organisation’s increasing workload is hitting the livelihood of taxi drivers across Fenland.

Taxi drivers dropping of grant forms at Fenland Hall.

While handing in the letter, spokesman Dave Humphrey also delivered grant applications from 50 taxi drivers who want a £6,000 grant from the council because they provide “essential transport service for many of our society’s elderly and mobility challenged residents.”

Thirty separate grant applications were handed in, alongside a combined application from another 20 drivers. According to the taxi drivers, FACT received £30,000 in grant funding for new vehicles in 2010 and 2011.

Mr Humphrey, who also complains that FACT is advertising under the title of taxi and private hire services, said: “We don’t expect to receive the grant funding, but we want the council to stop FACT behaving illegally or unethically.”

He added: “Fenland District Council first told us they did not issue the permits for FACT to operate, but the Traffic Commissioners says te council does issue the Permit 19s, so the council does have power to act, and we are asking them to do something.”

Taxi driver Steve Watson said: “FACT’s operation is affecting our livelihood. As their work load has increased, my work has decreased, and my takings are down by a minimum of 30 per cent.”

Owner driver Peter Dawson added: “FACT has affected by income drastically, things have got much worse over the last nine months.”

Cobby Thompson, a taxi driver for the last five years, added: “My takings have gone down by 30 to 35 per cent over the last nine months.”


Mar 26

Edinburgh Taxi driver guilty of murdering minicab driver

Stephen Nolan, 48, from Edinburgh, had denied chasing and murdering Ebrahim Aryaie Nekoo, 41, in his cab in Saughton Park on 24 March 2012.

AN Edinburgh taxi is facing a life sentence after a jury convicted him of running over and murdering a private hire driver following an argument at a filling station.

Stephen Nolan, 48, and Ebrahim Aryaei Nekoo, 41, had been involved some months earlier in a minor accident when both their vehicles were damaged.

They met by chance early on a Saturday morning as they filled up at Sainsbury’s petrol station in Westfield Road, Edinburgh, and words were exchanged.

After the row, Nolan, of Redhall Place, Edinburgh, led the way in his black cab to a car parking area at the Fords Road entrance to the nearby Saughton Park.

Mr Aryaei Nekoo, of Carrick Knowe Hill, Edinburgh, got out of his Vauxhall Zafira, and within a matter of seconds he was lying severely injured, and Nolan had driven away from the scene.

Nolan claimed Mr Aryaei Nekoo had produced a knife and that he jumped back into his cab and was chased by Mr Aryaei Nekoo, who “somehow” went under the vehicle and suffered massive crushing injuries.

The jury at the High Court in Edinburgh, however, rejected Nolan’s account and decided by a unanimous verdict that he had driven deliberately at Mr Aryaei Nekoo, had struck him and had driven over him on 24 March last year.

One of the strongest pieces of evidence for the prosecution was a series of tyre tracks made by the cab, showing it had accelerated hard and had twice been facing the exit of the car park but had veered off in another direction. There was no sign of any braking.

The judge, Lady Wise, said life imprisonment was the only sentence for murder, but she would have to set the minimum period to be served by Nolan and she was obliged to obtain a background report on him. Sentence was deferred until next month and Nolan was remanded in custody.


Mar 25

Kids spy on cabbies in sex-scandal crackdown

The teenagers are looking for ‘inappropriate behaviour,’ as part of a crackdown by Rochdale council after the conviction of nine men last year for offences such as rape and sexual activity with a child

Teenagers are being asked to spy on taxi drivers in Rochdale in a bid to avoid a repeat of the child sex ring scandal.

The young ‘mystery shoppers’ are being asked by council officials to catch taxi rides – in a bid to root out ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by potential sex abuser cabbies. It is part of a crackdown by Rochdale council on cab drivers and takeaway workers in the town following the conviction of nine men last year for offences including rape and sexual activity with a child.

Two of the nine men convicted of exploiting girls as young as 13 – often plying them with drink and drugs before passing them round for sex – were taxi drivers, while another two worked in a takeaway.

It is understood that licensing officials have been recruiting the teenagers from outside Rochdale – in a bid to ensure there are no recriminations for their participation in the scheme.

The council stresses that the checks are not aimed at ‘entrapping’ cabbies but are to ensure they are complying with their licences – for example by displaying their badges clearly.

Similar checks using teenagers are carried out at off-licences and newsagents that sell cigarettes to combat sales to under-age children.

But the youngsters are also being asked to listen out for any ‘inappropriate behaviour or language’ used by cabbies and take-away workers – who could have their licences taken away and be reported to the police if they show predatory behaviour.

The intelligence-gathering youngsters will pass on any concerns to the licensing authority who will work with the police on any further action.

A report into failings at Rochdale council’s children’s department – whose chief executive has already resigned – is expected shortly after Easter.

The town hall says that many improvements have already been put in place – and that they are even giving advice to other councils about keeping kids safe.

Town halls including Oxford – where a child sex ring was exposed last year – are believed to be among those to have sought guidance.

Rochdale council leader Colin Lambert said: “All aspects of the safety of adults and children will be explored within the borough and that includes ensuring the safety of those who use private hire or licensed taxis, food outlets or other premises.

“Where we have evidence of inappropriate behaviour we will act on it. And it is essential that badges are displayed at all times – there is no excuse.

“Rochdale has been at the forefront of rooting out abuse and exploitation of children and of course we have shared that good practice with other bodies. Everyone from the deputy children’s commissioner down has said this is not just a Rochdale issue, but a national issue.”


Mar 24

Growing safety concerns as Stockport Council target Hackney carriages from outside borough in bid to quell fears

The safety of Stockport’s travelling public is being put at risk by an influx of Hackney Carriages operating as private hire vehicles, the chair of the borough’s licensing committee has warned.

Over the last six months taxis licensed by Rossendale Borough Council have been working across Greater Manchester giving rise to concerns over their legal status.

Councillor Chris Gordon has revealed the extent of the problem after Stockport Council’s licensing team received hundreds of complaints from members of the public, licensed drivers and taxi trade associations.

“The real problem is the safety, comfort and general well-being of the town’s people,” said the licensing, environment and safety committee chair.

“A situation exists where hackney carriages can act as private vehicles outside their area and legally if you are plying for hire you cannot be hailed.”

The confusion arises as Rossendale taxis have lights and signs showing their availability and suggesting the vehicle can be hailed when in reality this is not the case.

Rossendale Borough Council stipulates the ‘hailing’ stickers cannot be removed, which is causing problems when they operate outside their borough.

“If people see a taxi with a sticker on then you would assume this vehicle can be hailed but legally they cannot be outside their area,” Cllr Gordon added.

And while increased competition is a matter of concern for the town’s authorities, a much more serious issue of invalidated insurance exists.

“It is not just one of commercialism but the fact you are then uninsured and that’s the big issue we have,” he said. “Not being insured worries me.”

A spokesman for Stockport Private Hire Association also expressed their passenger safety concerns and believes Rossendale Hackney vehicles are exploiting a 166-year-old loophole in the law.

Previously, Hackney vehicles were horse and carriage and could not travel more than a few miles so they were allowed to work anywhere in England and Wales.

“We feel it’s only a matter of time before someone gets in a Rossendale Hackney vehicle thinking they are for public hire,” he said.

“Outside Rossendale they are not so this would invalidate the taxi insurance.”

Stevie Bradley, 23, of Poynton, who works at NatWest in Stockport, uses a taxi firm she knows well and chooses not to hail cabs whenever possible.

“I only use Lynx taxis who are reliable,” she said. “I don’t trust getting into taxis I don’t know and there is no such problem with Lynx.

“I don’t like hailing cabs, particularly when I’m on a night out – my parents wouldn’t let me – and there is the insurance issue also.”

Another concern is Rossendale drivers having limited working knowledge of the area, ultimately providing a lesser service compared to drivers licensed by Stockport Council.

This is caused by a difference in licensing regimes as Rossendale Borough Council does not operate a knowledge test whereas Stockport’s test – strengthened in March 2012 – is rigorous.

“We have a very strong knowledge test in Stockport for private hires as well as Hackneys but it’s more intense for Hackneys than private hire,” said Cllr Gordon.

“Rossendale drivers do not have a knowledge test and they come to Stockport and haven’t got a clue where they are and rely on SatNavs to drive people about.

“People have said they have got in these cabs and the driver hasn’t got a clue where they are going.”

The Private Hire Association welcomes the strict nature of the knowledge test in Stockport and echoes Cllr Gordon’s view about the sub-standard service on offer.

“We have waited a long time in Stockport for the taxi test to be tougher on knowledge and it has finally happened,” added the spokesman.

“But now we have drivers coming from outer areas with no local knowledge working our streets.”

Richard Adshead, an IT worker from Stockport, said the situation of taxi drivers not having a working knowledge of the locality is a concern.

“It would certainly be a comfort to me to know drivers were from Stockport and know the area,” he said.

“You don’t want to be driven around by someone who doesn’t know where they are going.”

Stockport Council are carrying out regular targeted enforcement action – including “sting” operations – in a bid to curb the problem.

And there is collaboration across Greater Manchester as the situation is becoming increasingly common across the city.

“The licensing team are carrying out targeted enforcement and they are testing compliance for plying for hire requirements and they will be dealt with,” said Cllr Gordon.

“As chair of the committee I’m going to write to Rossendale licensing committee to ask them to implement the policy of just licensing drivers plying for hire in their local area.

“But the really important thing is asking them to remove their condition which stipulates the hailing sticker cannot be taken off.

“Our licensing people have a very close connection across licensing teams across the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities and enforcement is not just going to be in Stockport.”


Mar 24

Edinburgh taxis welcome decision to reopen Haymarket rank

TAXI operators have hailed a decision to reinstate a cab rank at Haymarket station’s main entrance as one expected to ease traffic congestion in the area.

Last month’s decision to close a temporary taxi rank on Clifton Terrace to make way for tramworks contributed to peak hour traffic delays at the busy spot.

Taxi drivers were using the corner of Haymarket Terrace and Rosebery Crescent as a stopping point to pick up and drop off passengers, jamming up already tight streets on a diversionary route used by First and Lothian Buses as well as the Airport Express.

Edinburgh City Council originally said there were no plans to relocate the rank to Clifton Terrace despite nearby businesses reporting subsequent traffic delays of up to 20 minutes.

But in a victory for cabbies and commuters, the council has since confirmed the rank will be reinstated in a fortnight’s time when roadway resurfacing and relining works have been completed.

In a letter, Alan Howie, departmental adviser to transport convener Lesley Hinds, said: “The temporary taxi rank at Clifton Terrace will be re-established in the next two weeks when the tram contractor has completed the planning, resurfacing and relining of this section of roadway, at which point it is the intention to relocate taxis back into this area.

“While the road markings will reflect the final Haymarket junction arrangements, and this does not include for a taxi rank, temporary traffic regulation orders will be in place such that the area can be used, as before, for taxi ranking.

“On completion of the Haymarket junction works, the taxis will be relocated back to the former area used for ranking immediately outside the station frontage.”

The council had previously provided three parking spaces on Dalry Road as an alternative for taxis, but operators had complained the stopping point was not visible from Haymarket station.

City transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “We have listened to taxi drivers and are pleased to be able to reinstate this temporary rank at Clifton Terrace until the Haymarket junction is finished. This location will make it easier for passengers to pick up a taxi when they arrive at Haymarket station.”

Central Taxis director Tony Kenmuir labelled the council’s about-turn as a victory for common sense.

He said: “I’m in no doubt that the interest the Evening News has taken in the situation has been a deciding factor. It makes life a lot easier for us and for the general public.”

A questionnaire on unmet demand for taxis in Edinburgh has recently been sent out to interested parties on behalf of the council.

Mr Kenmuir said he hoped the local authority would use the feedback to better integrate taxis at main transport hubs such as the Capital’s main bus station, Edinburgh Airport and Waverley station.

Alex-Cole Hamilton, former Liberal Democrat candidate in Edinburgh Central, wrote to Ms Hinds earlier this month championing the need for a more visible taxi rank at Haymarket station.

He said of the decision: “I’m glad that the council administration has finally listened to reason and woken up to the chaos at Haymarket, but the gridlock and disruption could have easily been avoided if they had allowed a taxi rank to operate in the completed tram lane directly outside the station.

“It’s what local cab drivers wanted and it’s what commuters and local residents would have preferred. I certainly hope that in the future city leaders will give ‘quick fix’ solutions like this a lot more thought before inflicting them on the community.”


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