Peterborough minicab driver banned for illegally picking up passengers

6938705977_0d226702c4_oA private hire driver from Peterborough has been fined and banned from driving after being found guilty of illegally picking up passengers in the street.

Mohammed Razzaq (42) denied unlawfully plying for hire and having no insurance at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court.

However, the court found him guilty of both charges.

Razzaq, of St Paul’s Road, Peterborough, was fined £250 for each offence, ordered to pay prosecution costs of £500 and a victim surcharge of £25.

And as he had knowingly conveyed passengers, despite being aware it would invalidate his insurance, the court also disqualified Razzaq from driving for three months.

Unlike Hackney cabs, private hire cars must be pre-booked through the company’s operator and not ply for business on the streets.

However, Razzaq was found doing exactly that in Peterborough in June 2013.

The court was told door staff from Edwards Bar in Peterborough contacted the city council’s CCTV team after spotting a private hire driver shouting comments at female customers, allegedly trying to encourage them to get into his vehicle.

The CCTV operator directed police officers to the scene after observing two young women getting into the vehicle.

Police stopped the vehicle on Lincoln Road.

The council’s licensing team launched an investigation and Razzaq, whose vehicle was registered in Huntingdon, was summonsed to court.

After the hearing, Peterborough City Council licensing manager, Adrian Day, said: “From the initial call from Edwards Bar through to the CCTV team directing police officers and the subsequent licensing team investigation, this was a good example of the various agencies working together to protect the public.”


Man arrested after cabbie ‘threatened pedestrians with an axe’ in Liverpool city centre

A taxi driver allegedly threatened pedestrians with an axe after they asked him to stop blowing his car horn repeatedly.

Shocked witnesses called police after the drama at the rank in Dawson Street, off Whitechapel, near Williamson Square, Liverpool city centre, which happened at around 2.30pm on Saturday.

The ECHO understands the driver, who was in a Hackney cab, was said to be carrying a small axe.

He is thought to have driven away from the scene after the argument.

Merseyside Police confirmed a 39-year-old man was arrested later that afternoon “following an incident in Liverpool city centre”.

A police spokesman said: “Patrols were called to Dawson Street at about 2.30pm, following reports that a motorist had threatened a group of pedestrians after they asked him to stop repeatedly sounding his horn.  Officers attended the scene and spoke to witnesses, none of whom were injured.

“A short time later, a 39-year-old man voluntarily attended a police station and was arrested on suspicion of affray.

“The man was questioned by officers and has been released on bail, pending further enquiries.”

Dawson Street taxi rank, near Yates’s pub, is one of the busiest taxi ranks in the city.

Liverpool Taxi Alliance, which offers free support to the city’s licensed taxi cab and private hire drivers, said it was unable to comment on the matter while a criminal investigation was ongoing.

Anyone with any information should call Merseyside Police on 101 number or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.


Black Country taxi drivers call to keep cars longer

Taxi drivers say they are struggling to make ends meet due to rules stating they must replace their vehicles every 10 years.

They are asking to be allowed to keep their cars for 15 years to cut costs – and insist it will have no impact on safety.

The issue has gone before a Walsall Council taxi committee, but no decision was made as members wanted to get more information.

Drivers say it has been rumbling on for five years and needs to be resolved.

Walsall Private Hire Association chairman Zulfqar Ali said: “This could go on for months yet and it has already been dragging on for years.

“There would be financial benefits for the drivers as this is a difficult time for us and things like this make it even harder.

“There would be no compromise in safety for the people of Walsall,” he added.

“The cars have to be checked twice a year to see if they are roadworthy and it isn’t fair to stop us using a car when it is still in good condition.

“There are different standards for black cabs and it is very frustrating.”

Licensing committee chairman Councillor Keith Sears said: “We have asked officers to draw up a report and it will come back before the next committee.

The extension could be pursued, but my own personal view is that if we are not careful we will have a fleet of private hire vehicles that are old and out of date.

“If we do extend the lifetime of the vehicles there could be a need for an extra test to be carried out on them, so they would be checked three times a year.

“As a vehicle gets older parts get worn and things start to go wrong. But we will look at the report and take it from there.”

The association has put forward a series of proposals for the council to consider and Mr Ali says he hopes they will come to an agreement soon. It comes after a string of long-running disputes between taxi drivers and council bosses in Wolverhampton over licensing of older vehicles.

Drivers there were opposed to new council rules allowing older cars – saying there are already too many taxis in the city.

New Hackney Carriage drivers could buy taxis up to four years old – with that increasing to six years in 2015.

But Parminder Sekhon, chairman of Wolverhampton Taxi Owners’ Association, said any such move would lessen the quality of taxis in the city.

Figures released last summer showed 1,000 fewer taxi drivers are on the streets of the West Midlands and Staffordshire since the recession – the first drop in eight years.

It comes despite repeated calls by cabbies for a cap on the number of licences issued as they complain there is not enough work to go around.

The figures were similar all over the country as the Department For Transport said the recession had resulted in a drop in the number of Hackney carriages and private hire licences since 2011.

In the West Midlands the overall number of licences of all types dropped from 15,866 to 15,076. However, there were increases in Walsall from 1,388 in 2011 to 1,445 in 2013.


Would you pay a random person to taxi you around? I did and this is what happened

On Tuesday night a woman who usually delivers fast food to Sydney homes drove me from the Opera House to my apartment in Surry Hills for a measly $7.10. I didn’t know this woman prior to her driving me home in the Suzuki Swift she owns – rather I used a new feature in the taxi and private hire car app Uber – due to be rolled out to others soon – to request she pick me up.

“Keo”, as she is known in the app, has been picking up dozens of people over the past five days while driving on Sydney’s inner-city roads after responding to a job ad from Uber on Seek. Similar ads appear on Facebook, Gumtree and other sites for drivers in Sydney and other cities.

Keo is not a licensed taxi driver, nor is her car a limousine with licensed hire car number plates. Instead she is a regular licence holder who has been vetted by Uber employees to ferry me around at “low cost” rates – rates far lower than what a traditional Sydney taxi charges.

Normally it costs me $10 to $15 to go to or from the Opera House from home, depending on traffic. Only paying $7.10 seems crazy, but there are a number of incentives for drivers. One of the main ones is that they can use the service whenever they want. Another is that they don’t have to pay the excessive fees many taxi drivers do to lease a taxi if they don’t own one.

Called “low cost” in Australia and “UberX” overseas, the new option has “infuriated” the local taxi industry, according to one taxi driver Fairfax Media spoke to, who said Sydney taxi drivers were questioning the legality of it and the fact it is was largely unregulated by government.

Already some US states have banned or are attempting to ban similar offerings, which have been dubbed “ridesharing” services. In Minneapolis, such services have been outright banned and drivers have been fined if found to be using them to pick up passengers; in Seattle they have been given the go ahead – but only 150 drivers are allowed to be available at any one time per app. Meanwhile, new laws introduced in California last year allow their use, but require companies behind them to have at least $US1 million in public liability insurance. Since this insurance was imposed, the apps have been adding $US1 “safety” fees on top of all fares.

It’s unclear from Uber’s legal terms how much a passenger would receive if they were hurt while riding in a low cost Uber in Australia.

Uber Sydney general manager David Rohrsheim said every low cost Uber ride was “backed by third party liability insurance up to $US5 million per incident”.

“With more options, consumers win, drivers win and Australia’s cities win.”

Until now, Uber – which has $US250 million in backing from Google – has only let Australian users ride in taxis and private hire cars in Sydney and Melbourne. Only recently did it begin quietly branching out into the ridesharing market to let anyone ferry users around who is 24-years-old, has their own car that has at least four doors and is a 2005 model or newer, has comprehensive insurance, no criminal record, and a licence.

Drivers wanting to use low cost must also be “fun” and “outgoing”, with “strong communication skills and great city knowledge” and “be willing to participate in a police background check”.

In an email to some Uber users last Wednesday, Uber said the cars that pick you up will generally be “an economical vehicle such as a Toyota Prius, Honda Civic or Holden Cruze”.

“Rides from North Bondi to the CBD could cost as little as $15, which is cheaper than a 333 bus ticket if you share the ride with three mates using our fare split feature,” the email said.

Now, back to my ride.

Keo tells me she’s been working 6-11pm most nights and earning up to $150 per night using Uber (excluding fuel costs). For the immediate future her income through Uber is high, as it adds a $15 bonus to every fare, regardless of whether it’s for $5 or $50. How long this will last is unclear, as it’s likely unsustainable for Uber, even though it takes a 20 per cent cut from fares.

The trip with Keo was the second one I had taken for the night. And although I got to my destination in one piece, the use of Google Maps on an iPhone that didn’t have a cradle, and a driver who didn’t know Sydney’s streets all that well, meant the journey took longer than usual. At one point Keo was resting her phone on the passenger’s seat and picking it up when needed.

An earlier trip from home to the Opera House with “Adam” that cost $6.33 — a little less than the trip with Keo due to the fact that this person normally drives a taxi and knew how to get around — was taken in a Toyota Rav4. I couldn’t fault him on his driving, but an annoying moth flying around his car and the fact he was wearing a rugby top reminded me what “low cost” meant.

The new “low cost” option is expected to go public within weeks for the rest of Uber users in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. This journalist — a big user of Uber— was not given early access to it on his own Uber app, but gained access to it via a friend’s smartphone to test it out.

There were some other hiccups in using the service, which are expected in the early days of a small-scale rollout. When trying to get back from the Opera House, for example, there were no drivers available. But after a 10 minute walk around Circular Quay, Keo eventually became available and drove from North Sydney to the city to get me.

“Availability will be very limited at first,” Uber said in its email last week.

Comment is being sought from the NSW Transport Minister over the legality of the service.



Low cost ‘taxi’ service a danger to the public, furious taxi council says

Sydney taxi drivers and the NSW Taxi Council are furious with a new initiative launched by US tech start-up Uber that allows car owners to use their own vehicles to taxi people around for a fee.

The NSW Roads and Maritime Services has requested a meeting with Uber to discuss how the NSW Passenger Transport Act applies to the new service, and how Uber will respond to its obligations under the act. The RMS said it was “looking forward to Uber’s response”.

This has to be dealt with before it gets out of hand.

NSW Taxi Council chief executive Roy Wakelin-King

Until now, the $US250 million ($270 million) Google-backed Uber has only allowed users to ride in taxis and private hire cars in Sydney and Melbourne. But now it has started to branch out into the “ridesharing” market, allowing anyone to ferry users around in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne provided they are at least 24 years old, have insurance, a licence, no criminal record, and own a four-door car that is no older than a 2005 model.

An ad that appears on Facebook for drivers.

“This has to be dealt with before it gets out of hand,” NSW Taxi Council chief executive Roy Wakelin-King said.

“We have an organisation that is asking people to take on faith a [taxi or hire car] booking system that has no regulatory checks or balances.”

There were no vehicle or driver background checks by the NSW government, he said.

“[It] represents a clear risk to the public.”

Mr Wakelin-King said the Taxi Council had asked the NSW government to investigate.

“We will also be warning passengers about the risks of using this service,” he said.

The service is currently only available to select users but is due to be launched publicly within weeks. Called “low cost” in Australia and “UberX” overseas, the company takes a 20 per cent cut from each fare.

The new option on the Uber smartphone app has infuriated the taxi industry, according to one Sydney driver, who said drivers were questioning the legality of the service and the fact it was largely unregulated.

Drivers have signed up by responding to Uber job ads on Seek, Facebook and Gumtree. The job ads stipulate that drivers wanting to be part of the low cost service must be “fun and outgoing”, with “strong communication skills and great city knowledge”, and “be willing to participate in a police background check”.

One of the drivers Fairfax Media spoke to said she used to be a fast-food home delivery driver.

Uber’s legal obligations are unclear, such as details of insurance and passenger injury compensation.

Uber Sydney general manager David Rohrsheim said every low cost ride was backed by third party liability insurance up to $US5 million per incident.

Already some US states have banned or are attempting to ban similar businesses.



Minicab drivers lose licences in crackdown after sex grooming case

Heywood minicab drivers in public safety crackdown after sex grooming scandal

Five minicab drivers and one hackney carriage driver have had their licences torn up in a council clamp-down called in the wake of the town’s grooming scandal.

Rochdale council say they have adopted a ‘robust’ approach to protecting ‘vulnerable members of the community’ from rogue cabbies after nine men were jailed for 77 years in 2012 for a string of sexual abuse against youngsters in Heywood .

Five of those who were convicted of child sex offences were private hire drivers who drove their young victims around in their licenced cabs.

Since then, council bosses who issue licences to private and public hire cabs, say that they have overhauled the way they assess new and existing drivers to see if they are ‘fit and proper’ to be on the road.

That has resulted in six drivers losing their licences after they were judged to pose a potential risk to the public either because they had an existing criminal conviction or because the council believed there was a ‘reasonable cause’ to question their suitability to be a driver.

An seventh driver also had their licence revoked, but had it reinstated on appeal.

Of the six drivers who had their licences revoked, one allegedly tried to start an relationship with a 15-year-old girl while another allegedly had connections to some of those jailed for grooming vulnerable youngsters in May 2012.

Another had exposed himself to a customer while a different driver had convictions for common assault and had made threats to kill.

All six drivers have had their licences withdrawn over the last 12 months.

In a report to councillors, Andy Glover , the council’s public protection manager, said the council was going further than other authorities to try to safeguard people.


Jan 10

Leeds minicab driver caged for ‘sickening’ rape of sleeping passenger

Mohammed Shahin.

A taxi driver who took a passenger to a remote location before raping her in a “sickening attack” has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years.

Married Mohammed Shahin picked up the 20-year-old in Leeds city centre after she had been on a night out but then drove to a secluded spot near, thought to be near Menston.

The terrified woman, who had fallen asleep en route, awoke to find Shahin, 28, attacking her.

After the rape, he then casually dropped her off close to her home.

Police said after picking her up Shahin had turned off the GPS tracking system that would have allowed his taxi firm to monitor his location – suggesting he had sinister motives from the outset.

Det Chief Insp Scott Wood, of West Yorkshire Police’s homicide and major inquiry team, said: “Shahin abused of his position as a private hire driver to take advantage of a vulnerable woman and we are pleased to see him behind bars for the extremely serious crimes he committed.

“He subjected his victim to a sickening attack and we would like to give credit to her bravery in the way she dealt with the situation and assisted the police in bringing Shahin to justice.”

Private hire driver Shahin, of Fitzroy Road, Bradford, had been meant to pick up a pre-booked fare when he arrived in Leeds city centre in the early hours of Sunday, September 30, last year. But he targeted his victim after she flagged him down on Duncan Street.

His taxi office then tried to contact him to find out where he was, but he had turned off his communication system.

Shahin initially told police he had lent his car to someone else on the night of the attack. He then admitted having sex with the woman, but claimed she had consented.

But he pleaded guilty to rape when he appeared at Nottingham Crown Court.

Shahin will be deported to his home country of Bangladesh after serving his sentence.


Jan 08

Licensed drivers in Gloucestershire under fire with 50 complaints

MORE than 50 complaints have been lodged against taxi drivers this year, ranging from indecent exposure to beeping the horn.

In Gloucester, the city council has had 27 complaints about drivers since January 1, Stroud District Council had 22 and in the Forest of Dean, there were just two.

Concerns about the standard of driving have been raised several times, as has the attitude of some drivers and the condition of cars.

Gloucester taxi driver Jeff Payne said he was surprised at the number of complaints but added it should be easy for drivers to help themselves.

“I don’t get any complaints because I drive carefully,” he said.

“You definitely have to be on your toes, especially at night time because you don’t know who or what is going to get in your car. Our biggest bugbear is private hire taxis illegally picking people up, I imagine a few complaints have been made about that.”

Other issues included takeaways and bed and breakfasts offering their own taxi services, concerns about CRB checks and the cost of fares.

An allegation of indecent exposure was made against one driver in the county, who was cleared.

Most of the complaints resulted in a written or verbal warning to the drivers in question.

A Gloucester City Council spokesman said: “The council takes its licensing responsibilities for the Hackney Carriage and private hire trades very seriously.

“Any claim of improper conduct regarding a driver’s attitude or behaviour, or disrepair to the vehicle, should be reported to the council and these will be investigated.

“The licensing team try to ensure a consistent approach across the city to ensure regular users and visitors to the city have a good experience when using licensed vehicles.”


Jan 08

New-look taxi design could be enforced in Cheltenham

SMART two-tone taxis could grace the streets of Cheltenham if new rules are approved later this year.

The borough council has said it will look at introducing a compulsory colour scheme for Hackney carriage drivers as part of a review of its policy governing cabbies in the town.

The move would be aimed at creating a clearer distinction between private and Hackney taxis and would mirror schemes which have already been introduced in cities such as Brighton, Cardiff and Bristol.

However, taxi drivers themselves would have to foot the bill for the change, having their vehicles resprayed at a cost of up to £1,500.

Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood has lobbied the council to introduce the new regulations, saying it would make the town safer for people flagging down a cab late at night. He said: “I know it would take a few years to introduce and be a bit of a cost to the taxi trade but it would promote a smart image for the town, and would also make the licensed Cheltenham Hackney cabs easily identifiable which would do two things.

“Firstly, it would help to defend Cheltenham cabs against poaching by taxis from elsewhere – especially at peak times like during the festivals – and, secondly, it would help punters to be confident about identifying the safest taxi option.


“This would be particularly important for women at night for instance.”

Councillor Peter Jefferies (LD, Springbank), cabinet member for housing and safety, said he had several conversations about introducing such a scheme.

“I think it is a good idea in principle,” he said. “The main driver for it would be to improve user safety as it would be absolutely clear which cars are Hackney carriage taxis.

“I don’t know what sort of colour scheme we would have in Cheltenham – that’s not really for me to say at this stage.

“But we are reviewing our policy for Hackney carriage and private hire taxis later this year and I’m sure this will come up. If it did come in there would be some costs to the taxi drivers. But there would be considerable benefits. Cheltenham is a popular tourist town and apart from anything else, this would make it look much smarter for visitors.”

However, cabbies themselves were less enthusiastic about the rules, which would take up to five years to come into play.

When a similar scheme was introduced in Bristol last year it caused uproar among drivers, who voiced fears the extra costs would force many of them off the road.

Di Mitten, secretary of the town’s branch of the Hackney Carriage Association, said: “As far as I know these plans are not happening at the moment.

“But it’s ridiculous to expect taxi drivers to pay more costs on top of what they do already.

“You’ve already got £180 for the licensing fee, then your driving license, MOT and insurance on top of that. It just goes on and on.

“So I don’t think this is something taxi drivers would welcome.”


Jan 03

Scumbag watch – suspect who threatened taxi driver with a gun

The computer generated image of the man suspected of threatening a taxi driver with a gun

A taxi driver was threatened at gunpoint during an attempted robbery.

Police have released a computer-generated image of the offender in a bid to put a name to his face.

The man, described as slim and aged in his mid-20s, walked into the offices of Call A Cab on Hyde Road, Denton, and asked for a taxi to the Abbey Hey area at around 6am on December 28. He told the driver that he would be paid on arrival.

But when the car reached Jetson Street, the thug got and and produced a small handgun.

He threatened to shoot the driver for his takings, but the man drove off.

Police are appealing for witnesses.

Pc Jason Bell said: “Every day taxi drivers face danger or the threat of violence when they pick up a passenger, particularly if the passenger is drunk. However, to be threatened by a man brandishing a gun is both unusual but also shocking and understandably this driver was badly shaken up.

“But thanks to the work of our forensic imaging specialists, we have compiled an accurate likeness.”

Call police on 0161 856 3567 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Jan 03

Minicab wars in Normacot?

Minicab drivers believe they are being deliberately targeted after their phone line was cut on New Year’s Eve – costing them thousands of pounds in lost bookings.

Ace Private Hire says it missed out on up to 1,000 bookings as it was unable to receive calls for two-and-a-half hours on Monday night.

An unknown offender cut a phone cable running outside the firm’s base in Normacot Road, Normacot, at 10.30pm.

Directors at Ace, which was launched last month, suspect the offence was part of a campaign to drive the company out of business.

Five advertising signs belonging to Ace were also smashed a week earlier.

Company co-founder Mohammed Amin said: “It was about 10.30pm on New Year’s Eve when we stopped receiving calls. At first we thought it was a problem with the phone company, but when we looked outside we could see that someone had actually cut the phone line.

“We had to pay about four times the standard rate to get an engineer out that night to fix it. But even if it had cost 10 times as much we still would have paid it, as we had to get our phones working again.

“We had 30 drivers standing around doing nothing. Everyone was getting very stressed out. We could hear the New Year fireworks going off outside but we still weren’t getting any calls. As soon as the line was fixed we took 300 bookings in half an hour. We must have lost between 800 and 1,000 bookings. We want to apologise to our customers.”

A group of existing minicab drivers launched Ace last month, hoping they would be able to compete with bigger firms by offering a cheaper minimum fare.

Whereas most firms charge a minimum of £3, Ace offer a £2 minimum, which Mr Amin believes makes the company more attractive to pensioners and others on a limited income. But it appears that not everyone has been happy with the new company’s arrival.

Mr Amin added: “We’ve sponsored two roundabouts on Lightwood Road, but in the early hours of Christmas Day, one of our drivers saw that our signs on the roundabouts had been smashed. You see sponsored roundabouts all over the place, but only our signs have been damaged.

“I’ve never heard of anything like this happening.”

A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: “We received a report of damage to five wooden advertising signs in Lightwood Road between 12am and 6am on Tuesday December 25. It was also reported that at around 10.30pm on Monday December 31 damage was caused to a phone line at a business premises in Normacot Road.”

Anyone with information on either incident is asked to contact Staffordshire Police on 101 quoting incident number 502 of January 1.


Jan 02

Shock assaults on Cumbrian taxi drivers

Worrying figures released to the News & Star highlight the dangers some cabbies face when going about their work.

The figures have emerged as drivers prepare tonight for New Year’s Eve – a party night that many drivers hope will be one of their busiest and most profitable of the year.

A total of 116 taxi drivers have reported being the victim of verbal or physical abuse since 2008.

But one cabbie believes instances of violence and abuse may be much higher because many will go unreported. Chris Hetherington, 52, of Belle Vue, Carlisle, revealed he has even resorted to wearing “a different hat every week” to avoid being recognised.

He said: “There is more goes on than is reported and the figures might even be higher than that. I’ve experienced a few problems.

“Personally I have never been attacked but I have been put in a situation where a gang of folk got in the taxi and wouldn’t get out.”

In 2008, 32 taxi drivers across Cumbria reported assaults. In 2009, there were 18. The following year there were 26 and in 2011 there were 23. This year has seen 17 reports.

Over the same five-year period, 21 bus drivers also claimed to have been assaulted. There have been a number of cases across north and west Cumbria where objects have been thrown at moving vehicles carrying passengers.

The figures, which go up to November 1 this year, have been released by Cumbria police following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from the News & Star.

Derek Kenney, 63, of Currock, Carlisle, who has been a taxi driver for more than 20 years, said: “I have had my moments but I work days when you get less trouble. Driving a black taxi you have a glass partition which must deter them.

“Each incident is different but there are times when they get nasty and you have to get aggressive, and times when you have to sit back. Yes, I have felt threatened in the job.”

One the most frightening experiences, he said, happened when he intervened in a domestic dispute on Botchergate and was threatened.

Cumbria police has repeatedly stated it takes a zero-tolerance stance against drink-fuelled crime with extra officers targeting hotspot areas to reduce the threat of trouble of evenings such as tonight.

Taxi rank marshals have also been used at times in places including Carlisle and Whitehaven to help quell problems with people waiting for lifts home at the end of nights out.


Jan 02

Drunken women guilty of racist abuse to taxi driver after ‘God’ row

A PAIR of drunken friends racially abused a taxi driver after he refused to take them all the way home following an argument about religion.

Tanya Brian and Angela Saunders said cabbie Mohammed Ashab was “dirty”, swore at him and called him racist names when he stopped their journey in Derby on November 10.

Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court was told that Brian, 37, and Saunders, 38, had been drinking heavily and got into Mr Ashab’s cab at 9.55pm outside the Byron pub, in Byron Street, Derby.

Once inside, they told him to go to Brian’s address, in Hollis Street but, while en route, they started arguing with him.

Peter Bettany, prosecuting, said: “On the way, Miss Brian and Miss Saunders had a go at Mr Ashab because he gave way for a police van.

“He changed the subject, asking them if they’d had a good day to which one of the defendants replied, ‘We always have a good day’.

“Miss Brian asked the driver if he had any children to which he replied, ‘Yes, God blessed me with a son’.

“She said, ‘Where is God?’ to which he replied, ‘God is everywhere’.

“She said, ‘When we get back to mine, I’ll show you God’, which Mr Ashab saw as a threat.

“He stopped the car outside the Navigation pub.”

Mr Bettany said Mr Ashab told Brian and Saunders, of Waterford Drive, Chaddesden, that he was not taking them any further and asked them to pay him the fare clocked up so far – £4.90.

As they got out, they shouted racist names at Mr Ashab as he followed them asking for the money.

The police then arrived and the pair were arrested and questioned.

Mr Bettany said: “In interview, Miss Brian said she had drunk 14 bottles of Budweiser lager.

“She denied she had called the taxi driver any racist names.

“But she had called the police and the operator said she had used racist names and the tape of their conversation was played back to her.

“Miss Saunders admitted in interview that she should not have used the racist names she did.”

Brian admitted a racially-aggravated public order offence while Saunders pleaded guilty to racially aggravated threatening behaviour.

Rob Whetton, for Saunders and Sue McGarver, for Brian, said their clients had shown genuine remorse for their actions.

Magistrate Malcolm Prentice handed Brian a three-month community order, a three-month curfew from 7pm to 7am, £85 costs, £50 compensation and a £60 victim surcharge.

He handed Saunders a six-month community order, £85 costs, £50 compensation and a £60 victim surcharge.

He said: “Your behaviour was despicable, unnecessary and alcohol cannot be an excuse.

“I hope that is deeply imprinted in your minds today.”


Dec 31

Geely to buy bankrupt London Taxis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more:

Dec 31

Freedom of Information Act statistics show up 82 offences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dec 19

Firms warned about rules by council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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