Ex-soldier and taxi drivers among those caught in undercover sting on Newcastle drug dealers

Using covert recording equipment, undercover police officers posed as users to trap people in the city centre and West End who were ‘peddling misery’

A former soldier and taxi drivers were among those snared in an undercover police sting to nab drug dealers in Newcastle.

Using covert recording equipment, police officers posed as users to trap people in the city centre and West End who were willing to supply cocaine and cannabis.

Ex-squaddie David Nixon was one of those caught dealing cocaine in Operation Themis, along with his then-partner, sometimes with young children in the car.

Taxi driver Shamsher Iqbal was caught selling drugs as he tried to save up for a new car while Amar Khan got involved after losing his job as a cabbie following a driving conviction.

Now Nixon, Iqbal and Khan have been locked up at Newcastle Crown Court while Nixon’s partner and another man got suspended prison sentences.

Judge Tim Gittins told them they had been “peddling misery”, adding: “It can’t be said often enough that these drugs blight lives and kill.

“They cause untold misery for those who take them and their friends and family who have to deal with the effects and for the wider innocent public, who are affected directly and indirectly by offences committed to fund addictions or offences committed while under the influence of drugs.”

Nixon, 24, and Michele Summerside, 27, both of Bishop’s Road, Benwell, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine after being caught selling to an undercover officer.

Nixon supplied cocaine on six occasions while Summerside supplied once and was present twice when Nixon was dealing.

In July last year officer ‘John’ met Summerside outside Lidl on Benwell Lane.

Matthew Bean, prosecuting, said: “Two children were in the rear seat, aged around three to four years old.

“John paid £40 for two wraps.”

On another occasion Nixon had a female child in the car when he turned up to sell £20 of cocaine, the court heard.

Judge Gittins told them: “One appalling aggravating feature of the offences so far as both of you are concerned is you were with your young children on occasions when you met the purchaser, so they were present when you were supplying serious class A drugs.”

When police went to Summerside’s home in Benwell they found more than 56g of cocaine worth up to £6,000, plus more than £1,000 in cash.

Nixon, who also admitted attacking a door supervisor in a pub with a pool cue in May, was jailed for a total of three years and five months.

Andrew Walker, mitigating, said: “He served his country in Afghanistan twice in the Royal Signals and served in the British Army until he was medically discharged last year.

“He was medically discharged with post-traumatic stress disorder because of his experiences on the battlefield.”

Summerside was given two years suspended for two years with a six-month curfew.

Jonathan Cousins, for Summerside, said she cares for her three young children and her sister and “bitterly regrets” becoming involved to help Nixon when he got into debt.

Mr Cousins said: “Most of all, she very bitterly regrets the children being in the vehicle when she did the deal.

“She felt she couldn’t leave the children in the house because there were no other carers.”

In separate offences linked only by the police operation, Iqbal, 26, supplied drugs to an undercover officer in October and November last year in the Mill Lane area, near Westgate Road.

When he was arrested he was found to have more than £3,000 in cash and told police he was a cabbie.

When the undercover officer asked Iqbal for cocaine, he said he didn’t sell it but introduced him to former taxi driver Amar Khan.

Iqbal, of Beaconsfield Street, Arthur’s Hill, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to two counts of supplying cannabis and one of supplying cocaine and was jailed for 18 months.

Khan, 25, of Ladykirk Road, Benwell, admitted supplying £40 wraps of cocaine on five occasions between November 4 and 12 and was jailed for two years and seven months.

Iqbal’s barrister said he had sold cannabis for a limited period to help him save up to buy his own taxi and said he was not a cocaine dealer or user and had simply facilitated a cocaine deal with Khan on one occasion.

Iqbal lost his job as a taxi driver when police informed his employers of his arrest on the drugs charges.

The court heard he has a partner and child and has now quit drugs.

Khan’s barrister said he started taking cocaine after losing his job as a taxi driver and began dealing to fund his £50 a day habit.

In another case, Klodian Maleti, 23, of Baxter Avenue, Fenham, Newcastle, admitted one offence of supplying cocaine to an undercover officer called ‘Chris’ on October 13 last year for £50.

He was given a two year suspended prison sentence with 200 hours unpaid work and a six month curfew.

The court heard he had come to the UK in 1999 from war-torn Kosovo and got addicted to drugs while at university but is intelligent, hard-working and is now off drugs and extremely remorseful.

The sentences of six other people who have admitted drugs offences were adjourned until later this year.

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

Councillor pledges to reverse any changes to taxi licensing if Tories are voted into power in Derby

Councillor Mick Barker believes the council has improved its licensing of taxi drivers over the last few years and does not want to see the system change.

Any changes made to Derby’s taxi licensing system will be quickly reversed if the Tories are voted into power, a leading Conservative councillor says.

Oakwood councillor Mick Barker responded to claims by Labour’s Baggy Shanker that the licensing process must be changed to protect vulnerable people, including children, following the revelations of child abuse in taxis in Rotherham.

Mr Barker argued the council had tightened its procedures since the problems in Rotherham were brought to light in the Casey report last year.

Derby City Council is seeking public views on its taxi licensing regulations following the publication of a public interest report that exposed failings leading to licences in Derby being awarded to criminals who were not “fit and proper” to obtain a badge.

The authority says it aims to take licensing power away from councillors and put it in the hands of council officers, who would operate a points-based system when handing out licences.

But Mr Barker, a vice chair on the council’s Taxi Licensing Sub Committee and former Metropolitan Police officer, believes the council has made great strides to eradicate the problems highlighted in the report, published by auditors from Grant Thornton in June. He said: “It has been my passion to make our licensing one of the most robust systems in the country. We’ve been very robust over the last few years and have forced through a very strict licensing regime in Derby and I do not want to it reduced back down to a smaller number again.

“When we get voted back into power, we will convert it into what we believe is the right system and that is the system we have in place now.”

Currently, taxi licensing is operated as a committee system with 15 members. Meetings consist of five members making panel decisions on applications, suspensions, disqualifications and appeals.

A public consultation runs until Monday with two options. The first would see a similar system implemented but with panel meetings held and chaired by a council officer. The decision to approve an application would be made by the officer based on the principles set out in the sub-committee member guidelines.

The council’s preferred second option would see the Derby points system introduced and the committee scrapped, with no introduction of an officer panel. Any applicant with 12 points on their licence would be refused, with existing drivers having their licences revoked if they accrued that total.

Anyone convicted for a sexual offence such as rape, sexual assault or child sex offences, threats to kill or acts of terrorism carry an automatic refusal or disqualification.

However, assaulting a police officer, for example, would carry an automatic refusal if committed within the last four years but would earn six points if committed in the previous five years.

Mr Barker says he was still more concerned by the number of out-of-town taxis working in the city than the situation at the council, as the authority is powerless to stop and check drivers or their cars licensed by other authorities. This is because the law states any driver with a Hackney Carriage licence can operate as a private hire taxi anywhere in the country.

The Derby Telegraph revealed last month how almost half of the city’s cabbies were licensed by authorities outside of the city – some as far away as Rossendale in Lancashire.

Mr Barker said: “If you’ve got a dangerous vehicle on the road, it’s dangerous regardless of how good the driver is at the wheel. That puts people at risk and we cannot check those vehicles. That power lies with the police and officers from the council that gave them their licence.”

To have your say on the consultation, visit the Derby City Council website by clicking on this link.

Read more at http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/

Jailed: Sex predator who pretended to be a minicab driver and assaulted passenger

Behind bars: Ahmed Abdirahman Yusuf has been jailed for four-and-a-half years Met Police
Behind bars: Ahmed Abdirahman Yusuf has been jailed for four-and-a-half years Met Police

A “sexual predator”, who posed as a minicab driver and forced himself on a female passenger, has been jailed.

Ahmed Abdirahman Yusuf, of Woodside Road, Haringey, picked up his victim and her friends in Soho, in February, offering a cheap fare back to their homes in Battersea.

However, the 31-year-old then started driving in the opposite direction towards his own home in Wood Green.

The former minicab driver – who was working illegally as a tout during the time of the attack – made suggestive remarks to his victim, who was sitting in the front passenger seat.

He grabbed her and kissed her before touching her inappropriately, the Old Bailey heard.

Yusuf only agreed to free his victim from the car after she gave him her phone number.

He called his victim 10 times the next day before she reported him to the police.

The “dangerous predator” was jailed for four-and-a-half years, at the same court on October 13, after being found guilty of sexual assault.

He was also placed on the sex offenders register for an indefinite period and is subject to a sexual offences prevention order for an indefinite period.

Detective Superintendent Adnan Qureshi branded Yusuf “dangerous” and praised his victim’s “courage” in coming forward.

He said: “Yusuf is a dangerous, sexual predator and has received a lengthy jail sentence and entry onto the sex offenders register for the rest of his life.

“I have nothing but praise for the victim for having the courage to come forward and report this crime.

“If you ever experience unwanted sexual behaviour, report it to the police. You will always be taken seriously and the incident will be fully investigated.”

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

Uber driver ‘sped off after spotting visually impaired passenger and her daughter, 15, had a guide dog’

  • Claire Currie, from Liverpool, left by Uber driver ‘because of guide dog’ 
  • The ‘shaken’ mother was trying to take daughter to a hospital appointment
  • Uber are investigating and the driver may lose access to the popular app 

A minicab driver may permanently lose access to Uber after a passenger claims her and her daughter were left stranded because he spotted they had a guide dog.

This is not the first time Claire Currie, from Mossley Hill, in Liverpool, has been refused a minicab because of her guide dog Purdey.

The mother-of-four, who used to be a teacher, has a genetic condition leaving her with extremely limited vision, which she described is like ‘seeing through a straw’.

Her dog Purdey was helping her take her 15-year-old daughter to an appointment at Alder Hay Children’s Hospital.

Claire Currie, from Liverpool, has been left worried about her and her daughter’s independence after she believes an Uber taxi driver drove off because they saw her guide dog, Purdey

But the incident has left her feeling shaken and she is worried it has knocked her daughter’s confidence too, after she is starting to be affected by the same condition.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo Ms Currie said: ‘I have a condition which means my vision is extremely restricted – it’s the equivalent of looking through two straws – so I like to use the app as it’s really accessible.

‘We’ve been refused access to taxis before now, but I’ve never experienced it with Uber. Usually drivers are really helpful and they’ll move the seat back to make space for the dog and make sure that everyone is comfortable.

Ms Currie was trying to take her daughter to Alder Hay Children’s Hospital (pictured) and is worried the incident has knocked her confidence as she is also starting to be affected by the condition
‘On this occasion though he just drove off – it’s really disheartening. The reason you get a guide dog is so that you can get your independence back and get your life back, and situations like this do knock your confidence.

‘Purdey is my third guide dog, and it’s down to them that I’ve been able to be so independent. They really are life changing so it’s so upsetting when somebody tries to take that away from you.’

Ms Currie explained that although her daughter’s vision is ok at the moment, it is likely to deteriorate and she wants to show her that life will still be ok and she can be independent, but incidents like this don’t help.

She added: ‘My daughter’s vision is fine at the moment, she struggles in the dark but is mostly fine – but her condition will get worse over time and eventually she will have very limited vision like me.

‘I try to lead by example and show her that she can be independent but I worry that situations like this will knock her confidence and worry her for the future.

Ms Currie has been refused other taxis in the past and also believes it is because of her guide dog

‘In the past when I’ve been refused from taxis she’s been the one to stick up for me, but I worry that she wouldn’t stick up for herself in the same way.’

According to the popular taxi app, Uber bosses are investigating the report and said if any driver is found to refuse a service animal, they will ‘permanently lose access to the Uber app.’

Uber admit they are investigating what happened to Ms Currie and say it is ‘totally unacceptable’

An Uber spokesperson told the local paper: ‘It’s totally unacceptable for drivers to refuse to take a guide dog and we are investigating this report.

‘Licensed private-hire drivers must carry service animals in their vehicle and we remind all drivers of this legal obligation before they start using the Uber app. Any driver who is found to have refused to take a service animal will permanently lose access to the Uber app and risks having their private hire licence taken away.’

Lynette Proctor, engagement officer for Guide Dogs Liverpool added: ‘It is incredibly disappointing to hear about Claire’s experience. This is the first access refusal we have had from an Uber driver in our area.

‘Shockingly, for people living with sight loss being refused access to a taxi or private hire vehicle because they are accompanied by a guide dog happens far too often.

‘It’s not only illegal, it knocks people’s confidence and stops them doing the everyday things that most people take for granted.

‘At Guide Dogs we want tougher sentences for drivers who turn away assistance dog owners.’

WHY DO TAXI DRIVERS HAVE TO TAKE GUIDE DOGS?

Under the Equality Act 2010 all drivers and public transport operators have to take guide dogs, and any other assistance dogs, at no extra cost.

They must not treat the guide dog owner less favourably because of their impairment.

Under the Act, there may be occasion for an individual driver to hold an Exemption Certificate which relates to a specific medical condition.

But it is not acceptable to refuse transport for religious or cultural beliefs, a view that is supported by the Muslim Shariat Council.

A guide dog owner equally has responsibilities to ensure that the dog is clearly an assistance dog, through use of a harness and/or identification card.

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

Union plans legal action over council wheelchair taxi dispute

A taxi drivers’ union is planning to take legal action against Dundee City Council in a row over wheelchair accessible vehicles.

GMB Scotland has made the decision amid a three-year dispute with the council.

The current system — which the GMB describes as a “two-tier workforce” — requires some drivers to buy wheelchair accessible vehicles, which start at £19,000, whereas other drivers are allowed to buy a vehicle from as little as £1,000.

GMB officer Drew Duffy said: “Dundee City Council seem to be happy with this two-tier system — all we want is a level playing for all taxi drivers.

“We have drivers who were operational prior to changes in 2003, who could purchase any vehicle. Then after Dundee City Council changed their policy on new taxi operators, drivers had to purchase wheelchair accessible vehicles.

“The problem is some of these drivers, prior to the changes in 2003, have now retired but their badges are still active.

“Their vehicles are operating in the city driven by other drivers, so they don’t have to adhere to the changes in the law. I believe this represents around 40% of the taxi drivers in Dundee.”

Licensing committee chairman Stewart Hunter said he understood the frustrations of the taxi drivers but insisted the committee has to decide what is best for the public.

He said: “We have a policy at the moment where the fleet is mixed. I understand their frustrations because it is costing some drivers more than others to buy vehicles.

“But our focus, first and foremost, is what is best for the Dundee public and they want a mixed fleet. We had a consultation around four years ago with disability groups, which the taxi liaison group were present at. We tested out a series of different vehicles and it was apparent that not all passengers were able to access a disabled vehicle which is why we decided to operate a mixed fleet.”

But Drew said: “I would argue that Edinburgh and Glasgow already operate a service where all taxis are wheelchair accessible so I can’t understand why we can’t. We have a date set in November for the case but I hope we can reach a decision prior to this. All we ask is the council to review the system currently in place.”

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

Taxi wars hot up in York as cabbies and Uber clash

  • Hackney drivers demand level playing field
  • York council blames Government changes and less rigorous councils
  • Uber says its drivers are acting perfectly legally

TAXI operators have raised further concerns about drivers from outside the city operating in York.

They claim operators are travelling from Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and elsewhere to pick up fares, mainly on weekends, in part due to a lack of enforcement but also due to a new company starting up in York.

Keith Hatfield, director of York Station Taxis, met the council last week and said changes to council policy meant it was easier for other companies to work in the city.

He said: “We’re not afraid of York competition that’s what we’re after, that’s fine. But as long as it’s a level playing field, that’s all we’re asking for.

“They can join Uber from York, we don’t have a problem with that, but these people haven’t gone through the local knowledge test, which takes quite a while. I know people who’ve been waiting to get through that for nine months, it’s a tough test, but makes you a better driver.”

Mr Hatfield said some Uber drivers had refused to move from Hackney ranks while waiting for a pickup, and “we have had to put rank marshals to move them”.

Dave McTernan, from Getaway Cars in York, said “dozens of out of town cars are patrolling the streets of York and working night and day”, and called it “a bad situation”.

He said: “It’s not being dramatic to say it’s out of control.

“It’s a free for all in York at the moment. We’re controlled by strict CYC regulations for everything, but getting all these cowboys coming into town and doing things illegally so it’s very aggravating.

“With Uber, the reason they are putting so much pressure on is because they know they’ve to have cars here and are paying drivers £14 an hour to come across here without bookings.”

A spokeswoman for Uber said there had been “interest from dozens of local drivers”, and all their drivers “must hold a valid private hire licence from their local city council and must maintain valid insurance and vehicle maintenance”, which also included going through an enhanced background check (DBS).

She said: “Regulations governing private hire are quite clear. Drivers licensed for private hires can pick up and drop off anywhere in England and Wales so long as their driving licence and vehicle licence match the operator licence that processes that booking.

“Uber holds operator’s licences in York, Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield among others and drivers across the UK can use the Uber app to collect fares in compliance with their local licence.”

Matt Boxall, acting head of public protection at City of York Council, said the authority’s standards for drivers was high, but “other local authorities apply their own level of checks prior to licensing drivers and their vehicles, and now government laws have made it easier for licensed drivers to work in different towns”.

The council’s enforcement team currently includes 12 officers to cover “taxi licensing, environmental health and trading standards”, and two more officers were due to be appointed this week.

Mr Boxall urged anyone with concerns about drivers or vehicles to phone 01904 551525 or email public.protection@york.gov.uk

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

Updated rules on offenders applying for taxi licences in Barrow in wake of Rotherham child abuse scandal

NEW guidelines have been approved spelling out when former offenders can become taxi drivers in Barrow.

A policy review for licensing hackney carriages and private cars has been completed and given the green light.

According to the policy’s wording, offenders convicted of murder, manslaughter, rape, and other serious crimes will have their application refused “unless there are exceptional circumstances”.

The Barrow Council’s Executive Committee said its policy on taxi licensing had to be updated following the child abuse scandal in Rotherham, and the role taxi drivers played.

Former offenders applying for licences will have to wait a period of time from when they were first convicted, or from their release if they were sent to prison.

People convicted of indecent exposure or soliciting would have to wait between five and 10 years before their application would be considered.

Arsonists, violent offenders and those convicted of racially aggravated crimes would also have to wait five years.

Committee chairman Councillor Dave Pidduck said: “As a council we have to make sure that all our policies are up to date.

“These are changes in that policy to reflect the modern situation.”

Councillor Brendan Sweeney and Cllr Pidduck both commented on the difficult task it was to draw a line in the sand for offences.

Cllr Sweeney said: “I think the licensing committee spend a lot of time looking at the individual cases. You have to draw the line between a mistake that someone made in the past or if there is no risk.

“Some one has to be able to make a living.”

Cllr Pidduck spoke of how taxi drivers should not be exempt from safeguarding regulations.

He said: “Safeguarding is so important now. They are in a position of trust.”

The new policy will also introduce changes to make sure taxi drivers are fit to drive.

New applicants will have to provide a medical certificate showing they are fit. Drivers over the age of 55 will be required to prove they are fit to drive every three years.

Drivers will also be required to complete a one-off knowledge test on the area, their understanding of the highway code and numeracy.

Some taxi drivers have supported the changes however there has been criticism these changes, and the charges they incur will push drivers out of the business.

In a public consultation, an anonymous taxi driver wrote: “I feel that I don’t see why we should have to pay to prove that I can do my job.”
Drivers will also have to require a DVSA driving assessment, however, this is no longer provided in Barrow – the nearest assessment centre is in Lancaster.

As a solution, Cllr Sweeney has called for an enterprising local business to start providing this service, he said: “There is a clear commercial opportunity for a local firm to take that up.”

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

Rotherham Council regains powers to grant taxi licences after ban in wake of child sex scandal

Licensing powers are the latest to be handed back to the council after a period of reform following damning reports which found that the local authority and South Yorkshire Police had turned a blind eye to men of predominantly Pakistani heritage abusing 1,400 vulnerable girls over a 16-year period.

The council’s licensing powers cover driving and operations licences for hackney carriage and private hire taxis, as well as alcohol licences.

Professor Alexis Jay’s report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, published in 2014, found that some taxi drivers had played a ‘prominent role’ in the offending.

A follow up inquiry, by Louise Casey, said there was a ‘well-publicised link between taxis and child sexual exploitation in Rotherham that has cast a long shadow over the vast majority of law-abiding drivers’.

In a ministerial statement yesterday, Local Government Minister, Marcus Jones, said: “This marks significant progress, as licensing was one of the council’s services implicated by the Casey report as contributing to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.

“I am now satisfied that the council could exercise the licensing function in compliance with its best value duty and I am consulting on revising directions accordingly.

“The most recent reports by commissioners appointed to oversee services in Rotherham had found that licensing services were now ready to return to council control, Mr Jones said.

He added: “The collective evidence demonstrates that the key objectives of the intervention, in relation to licensing, have been delivered.

“It is my assessment that the weaknesses in licensing identified in the Casey report have been addressed and the service is now functioning effectively.

“Officers and members have recognised the need for and implemented fundamental cultural change, and advisory board members, in particular the chair, are more capable and confident in their role.

“Commissioners will continue to have oversight of the service, Mr Jones added. Education, housing and planning functions were returned to the council in February.

Read more at: http://www.thestar.co.uk/

‘Despicable’ taxi driver banned from driving after blaming wife for his traffic offence

A ‘despicable’ taxi driver has been banned from driving for 18 months after attempting to pervert the course of justice by blaming his wife for his own traffic offence.

Ibrar Suleman’s Mercedes taxi was seen driving through a red light in Sheffield in February.

Suleman eventually responded to letters and emails about the incident to claim that his wife had been the driver at the time – but an investigation found he had been working that day and had accepted a job around 40 minutes before the incident.

Both Suleman and his wife were arrested, with the taxi driver eventually pleading guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice. Suleman, aged 40 and of Infirmary Road, Chesterfield, was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and disqualified from driving for 18 months.Judge

Recorder Anthony Kelbrick told the defendant:

“It is despicable that a man should drag his wife into his own offending, blame her, have her arrested, taken to the police station and interviewed for a criminal offence.

“You should be utterly and thoroughly ashamed of yourself.

“You should have better respect for your wife.”

Read more at: http://www.thestar.co.uk/

Fined: Old Trafford football fan taken for a ride by overcharging taxi driver

The football fan was travelling back to Manchester Airport after the game at Old Trafford

A TAXI driver has been ordered to fork out almost £600 after duping a football fan into paying double fare from Old Trafford to Manchester Airport – which he had claimed was the passenger’s idea.

Hackney carriage driver Farzin Kheshvari has been convicted of overcharging a customer he picked up earlier this year.

The victim, a football fan, had travelled with his son to watch Manchester United versus Arsenal back in February and hailed a cab to head back to Manchester Airport after the match.

Kheshvari refused to put the fare on his meter but instead insisted on a fixed fee of £35 upfront for the journey. If 8.3 mile journey had been on the meter, it would have cost approximately £19.

The passenger felt he had been taken advantage of and lodged a complaint with Trafford Council. Kheshvari initially refutes the claims, maintaining that it was the passenger who had insisted on paying £35 for the journey.

Kheshvari pleaded guilty at Manchester and Salford Magistrates on October 7. He was fined £80 for failing to engage the taxi meter, £40 for charging more than the metered fare, ordered to pay costs of £453 and a victim surcharge of £20.

Cllr John Reilly, executive member for economic growth, environment and infrastructure, said: “This conviction reinforces the Council’s commitment to protect members of the public. The general public should be able to trust taxi drivers to comply with the rules and regulations and not to take advantage of them.

“The council has adopted byelaws that compel hackney carriage drivers to put fares on the meter when the destination is within the Trafford area or within four miles of the Trafford boundary, as is the case with the airport.

“The council investigates all complaints against licensed drivers, whether they are private hire or hackney carriage drivers, and will continue to enforce against those abusing their position of trust.”

Kheshvari will now be referred to the council’s licensing sub-committee and may face further sanction.

Anyone wishing to lodge a complaint against a Trafford licensed vehicle are asked to email the licensing team on licensing@trafford.gov.uk.

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