Uber’s bid to bring taxi app to Reading refused by the council

Licensing leaders refused Uber’s bid to branch out into Reading

UBER bosses have been refused permission to bring their app-based taxi booking service to Reading.

Councillors denied the bid after the company failed to prove it could meet the council’s guidelines including having a round the clock manned office.

Despite claims more than 20,000 people in the town had tried to access the mobile app in recent months the licensing applications sub-committee also said there was no evidence of demand for the service.

The system uses GPS and mobile data to find the nearest private hire vehicle and developers pride themselves on being able to guarantee quick pick up times by using people’s location and a competitive pricing system at busier times.

Speaking at last night’s meeting at Reading Borough Council’s Civic Offices Thomas Elvidge, general manager at Uber, called on members of the committee to give them the green light.

He said: “We are really excited about coming to Reading and really believe there is demand for the service.

“We can provide and enhancement and [what] for the industry and we really want to be here in Reading to do that.”

But councillors were unconvinced and quizzed Mr Elvidge on how customers could get in touch with problems if their office was not manned 24 hours.

Cllr Jeanette Skeats said: “So if there was a problem, and we do get problems sometimes in the trade where officers have to go around to your office, would there be someone in charge?

“The buck has to stop somewhere.”

Uber’s legal representative assured members that contact could be made by posting a review through the app despite there being no phone number to call.

He said: “If it’s to do with a fare then that will be dealt with in one way but – and we hope this would never happen – if there was an allegation of a verbal or physical abuse you would get a phone call from us.”

Issues were also raised about the firm’s so-called surge pricing model which seeks to discourage certain customers by increasing the cost of a journey at peak times to ensure supply does not outstrip demand.

Asif Rashid, chairman of Reading Taxi Association, said: “I can assure you Reading is a notorious place for bad traffic and for drivers of private hire cars there are places in the town centre they cannot go when it’s busy.

“But if those drivers are suddenly stuck in traffic then your surge pricing will kick in.”

Mr Rashid added concerns that drunk customers would not be aware how much they were paying until the following day.

Refusing the application for a private hire vehicle operator’s licence committee chairman Cllr Paul Woodward said: “Having considered the case and all the representations we have decided to refuse to grant Thomas Elvidge a private hire vehicle operator’s licence due to not being considered a fit and proper person.”

Their reasons included not meeting the licence conditions, not having a manned office and lack of clarity on vehicle numbers.

Speaking after the meeting an Uber spokesperson said: “Uber has been granted more than 40 operator licences by local councils across the country so we’re extremely surprised and disappointed by last night’s decision.

“In every town and city we operate we bring new economic opportunities for people who want to be their own boss and make money by being a licensed private hire driver.

“Millions of people across the UK regularly use Uber to get a convenient, safe and affordable ride at the push of a button.

“We remain convinced there’s real demand for Uber in Reading as more than 22,000 people in the town have opened our app in the last 90 days alone.”

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

Taxi driver had £200,000 of cocaine hidden in his cab

A WORCESTER taxi driver caught with cocaine worth up to £200,000 in his cab has been jailed for six years.

Secret drug addict Saheed Iqbal, of Carlisle Road, Ronkswood, was acting as a courier and using his taxi to ferry drugs into the city to pay off a £10,000 debt to his dealers, Worcester Crown Court was told.

The 37-year-old had already used all of his family savings and taken out loans to fund the habit he had hidden from his family until his arrest on November 13, last year, the court heard.

Simon Phillips, prosecuting, told the court Iqbal was stopped by police in Conway, off Tolladine Road at around 3pm after he was seen driving erratically. They saw a passenger get into the cab and get out again a short distance later which made them suspicious. They searched the taxi and found one kilo of cocaine hidden in a compartment. It had a purity of 78 percent and was worth between £70,000 and £100,000 but could have been cut to produce the usual street level purity of 39 per cent, which would have increased its value to between £140,000 and £200,000.

Iqbal, who pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply, said he had not handled the drugs himself but had fetched them from Birmingham where they were put into the car by someone else. When he arrived in Worcester, they were taken out by another person and he was only involved as a courier. He admitted carrying out the trip once or twice a week for up to two months before his arrest.

Jason Patel, defending, handed in a number of references and said Iqbal, who had no previous convictions. was part of a strong Pakistani community in the city. He had brought shame on his extended family, Mr Patel said, after he got into financial difficulties and started using cocaine.

“The addiction took over and he used all the family savings,” Mr Patel said. “He ended up owing £10,000 to his dealer and he went on to carry these drugs though he was unaware of the quantity.”

Mr Patel said Iqbal had been tackling his addiction while on remand in custody.

Judge Nicolas Cartwright said Iqbal’s role was as a courier as he worked to pay off the debt.

“The drugs would have found their way into the bodies of users in the city of Worcester,” the judge said.

After the sentencing, DI Stuart Murphy, of West Mercia Police, said: “This highlights our commitment in South Worcestershire to tackle those who supply Class A drugs to our communities.

“Those who deal in this commodity may think the financial rewards are tempting however, having your liberty taken away from you for six years as in Mr Iqbal’s case will serve to remind those involved that you will go to prison for a long time.

“Drugs are a blight, and bring misery to neighbourhoods, those addicted to them and their families.”

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

Controversial Lincoln cabbies’ licence which caused college walk-out comes into force

The controversial new licence which furious Lincoln taxi drivers have to now secure comes into force today, Monday, March 7.

Angry drivers have claimed they will lose both time off work and wages if they take the £240 course ordered by the local authority.

And its announcement in February was followed by a walk-out of the college course that City of Lincoln Council demanded all local cabbies pay for, take and pass.

The cabbies were told they must complete a BTEC course in customer care, public protection, health and safety and routes and fares.

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

But drivers have said they already pay hundreds of pounds to take courses and fund fees.

And they insist the extra training is unnecessary.

On the first day of the course in February, up to six taxi drivers left branding it ‘a joke’ after they were asked to fill in a questionnaire.

It included simplistic comprehension questions, such as “which colour handbag do you like best?” next to a picture of a woman holding an assortment of bags.

The council defended its decision to make drivers take the course, set by Lincoln College, saying the requirement for training will enhance the service provided to the public and also the professional status of drivers.

The local authority said the offending questions were designed to test basic language skills in advance of the BTEC beginning.

One taxi driver who did not wish to be named said: “They set three forms out on the table. They didn’t say why we were there or what we had to do. I was expecting to go into a room and sit down with other people talking to us.”

Another taxi driver said he had refused to take the BTEC course in the first place and had even considered a career change because of the £240 cost to take the course.

“They should have introduced it to new taxi drivers wanting to come into the industry not established ones. We’ve jumped through so many hoops already.

“Some of our drivers have been driving for 38 years. It makes a mockery of what they’re trying to do.

“It should be there from the outset so you can make an informed decision about becoming a taxi driver. If you want to become a taxi driver that’s what you need.

“The worst case scenario is there’s going to be certain drivers out there who’ll go underground and there’ll be more bogus taxis on the rise. I’ve got morals but I think there’ll be people who’ll think, ‘I’m not paying that I’m going to do it illegally.'”

Mick Crow, managing director of Direct Cars in Lincoln, said the course would sort the good drivers from the bad, but did fear people may leave the profession because of the costs.

The 49-year-old said: “At the end of the day it will get the bad ones out because the bad ones won’t want to stick at it but the good ones will.

“We encourage people to come on board, we pay for all their badges. We’ve got some drivers costing more than £400, some cost over £700. The cost is going to deter people away from the job.”

A city council spokesman said: “The questions are not part of the BTEC. It’s entirely English comprehension. What it’s doing is [testing] whether anyone has additional needs such as not having English as their first language, or illiteracy or reading difficulties.

“It’s set by Lincoln College so when people come in they know what level everybody is operating at.”

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

Move to end ‘bureaucratic nightmare’ of taxi and minicab inspections set to be approved

A “BUREAUCRATIC nightmare” over inspecting taxis and minicabs is one step closer to being untangled, the deputy leader of Bradford Council has said.

Councillor Val Slater said Bradford Council was in the process of teaming up with their counterparts in Leeds, Yorks, Wakefield, Calderdale and Kirklees so they can safety-check each other’s vehicles.

It’s part of increasing moves among the members of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to fully standardise the way they licence and enforce taxis and minicabs.

The changes are being hurried through after the Government relaxed sub-contracting laws across the country in October.

This means an operator in one authority can sub-contract work to a business in another area, making cross-border working more common.

But currently, Bradford’s taxi enforcement officers can only stop and check vehicles licensed by Bradford Council – a situation Cllr Slater described as a “bureaucratic nightmare”.

Under the changes, Bradford Council’s licensing and enforcement officers would be able to spot-check taxis and minicabs and suspend licences on vehicles licensed by any of the members of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

Similarly, the council would give the other authorities across West Yorkshire and York delegated powers so they could spot-check Bradford cabbies driving in their own areas.

This week, the council’s regulatory and appeals committee will be asked to approve the changes, before they go to the full council to be rubber-stamped.

Similar moves are taking place across the other authorities, so the changes can come into effect in April.

Cllr Slater welcomed the progress.

She said: “It’s a big step towards standardisation and making sure that we are all operating under the same conditions and that people have got the same standards of service.

“It does cut down a lot of the bureaucracy.”

Council documents show no-one from the cab trade sent in official responses to a recent consultation about the changes, but that operators and cabbies’ groups had been broadly supportive when discussing the idea in meetings.

As well as enforcement, the authorities are also considering working together on:

* a West Yorkshire centralised licensing database maintaining a centralising record of applications, suspensions and revocations;

* a standard criteria for the policy on drivers’ past convictions;

* and the driver application process, including improved common minimum standards for safeguarding training and English comprehension.

The committee meeting takes place at Bradford City Hall on Thursday.

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

Uber driver shouted ‘kill all the Jews’ at school bus driver in Stamford Hill

An Uber driver yelled anti-Semitic slurs at an Orthodox Jewish man behind the wheel of a school bus in Stamford Hill.

Rashal Miah, 36, shouted he would “kill all the Jews” after a fit of road rage in September 2014, Snaresbrook Crown Court was told today.

After getting stuck in traffic, Miah got out of his Mercedes and remonstrated with the driver in front of a bus full of young children.

He asked the driver: “What right do you have to tell me what to do in this country?”

And he referred to the man as “Yehudi” – meaning Jew in Hebrew.

Miah was today handed a 28-week sentence suspended for one year after last month being found guilty of racially aggravated harassment.

Sentencing Miah, of Gladesmore Road, Tottenham, judge Murray Shanks said his “horrible” language in front of the children and other members of the orthodox community in Stamford Hill had led to his conviction.

“I accept this was mainly driven by you being wrongly angry and suffering from road rage, as well as being arrogant about what you were entitled to do on the road,” he said.

“I hope it doesn’t indicate some underlying prejudice. If this was the other way round and Muslims were being insulted I have a good feeling you would feel strongly. You need to understand that before you open your mouth.”

Mitigating for Miah at Snaresbrook Crown Court, Clare Leslie said he recognised the seriousness of the offence and didn’t hold any underlying racist beliefs.

She said his jobs as a private chauffeur and self-employed Uber driver were at risk and pleaded with judge Shanks to spare him jail because he was the main provider for his wife, parents and six-year-old child.

Miah was handed a suspended sentence of 26 weeks for using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause fear or provoke violence, and two weeks for arriving late to court during his trial.

He must attend 15 days of anger management sessions and do 100 hours of community service.

He has also been billed £900 for prosecution costs and must pay an £80 surcharge.

source: http://www.london24.com/

Wayne’s World March 2016

casey confWayne’s World


Wayne Casey

The views expressed in this article are not the views of the paper, the NTA or NPHA

Carrying on from last month

As I stated last month, I now consider myself a spectator in all things licensed, its far easier on the old heart to be detached and unemotional.

The past couple of articles have concentrated, quite fairly, on the general idiocy of those nice folks who license us and pass laws.

However, in fairness and we must face facts, some of you are cannon fodder – because some of you appear to be a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic.

As ever, I do actually have proof, this just is not a simply wild accusation just put in this column for the outrage, although I would contend, I am merely passing an opinion, the others are causing the actual outrage.

The Bolton news provided a degree of corroboration to my stunning allegation with a story about a private-hire driver who was guilty of not allowing a blind man into his car because he had a guide dog.

Exactly what kind of depraved, stupid and ignorant human would refuse to carry a blind person with their guide dog when is it illegal to refuse, but on every level it is morally unjustifiable.

This kind of a person should be set in stocks at the town hall for members of the public to throw rotten fruit at, I mean, if I was to suggest kneecapping this man would be fair, I don’t think many would disagree.

The driver actually claimed in court “he did not know it was a guide dog, and that he would not have refused”.

I guess the dog was wearing a fluorescent jacket as some type of fashion statement.

The poor chap attached to the dog needing assistance did so because he thought it would be a good idea to walk around with his eyes closed.

If this didn’t strike the driver as a bit odd it must mean the driver is mentally challenged, as we must be, if we are to believe his ‘cock and bull’ version of events, which obviously, nobody, not even the magistrates believed.

I mean, how horrible must this human being actually be? Sight is one of the greatest gifts we have, we can see a glorious landscape, a sunset, the very beauty of life, the passenger was robbed of this, and instead of very human sympathy, the driver saw a dog, a dog that was trained to give the poor blind person a degree of independence.

How low can a person get?

The operator told the driver that he must accept the job, calling him into the office to fire him after the refusal, indeed the dispatcher went to court and confirmed this.

The next lunatic that deserves to be dragged along a cobbled road for countless miles by a team of horses is the chap in Derbyshire who put a sign in his taxi prohibiting people to speak in any language other than English.

In terms to sheer stupidity, this one takes the biscuit, because the chap appears to believe he’s done nothing wrong, presumably this is like the chap from Bolton mentioned above who similarly believed he’d done nothing wrong either.

With everyone doing nothing wrong, but being found guilty, this speaks volumes about the lack of justice within the British judicial system, little wonder David Icke describes the judiciary as reptilians.

This kind of idiocy is beyond my own ken, I mean he is from Derbyshire for heaven’s sake, a place where English is used as a second language and the number of digits attached to the hands is normally more than the usual five.

For one, the cabbie presumes people can read and write in English, and judging the hate mail I receive from some of you, I can tell you this simply isn’t the case.

I noticed with a certain degree of alarm that a cyclist managed to obtain exclusive footage of a now former Addison Lee minicab driver vigorously masturbating at a set of traffic lights whilst looking at a pornographic publication.

Cyclist and road safety campaigner Lewis Dediare rumbled the minicab driver.

Lewis also works as a telecoms supervisor, presumably road safety campaigning just isn’t bringing in as much cash these days as it used to.

Lewis was quoted as saying, “As I was cycling towards him I noticed him driving into the cyclists box’. An unfortunate choice of expression given what he found at the traffic lights.

Lewis went on to say ‘What a filthy person. It scares me to think that he could be picking women up after looking at pornography. He is a minicab driver, he could be carrying my sister.’

I have news for Lewis, who has perhaps led a sheltered life; this is the type of person licensed across the UK.

When people raise questions they’re very often described as luddites or racists who are getting in the way of technology. The good news is (well for me anyway as folk like this will fill my articles), it is going to get worse and there is nothing anyone can or will do about it.

Another person who deserves beaten about the head with a cricket bat is Naseer Taj who was a cab driver in Bedford. He was planning to leave his heavily pregnant wife and children to join those nut-jobs in the Middle East whose favourite hobby appears to be cutting folks heads off and dreaming up new ways to ritually murder people.

All in the name of god obviously, because God is like that, especially to those who don’t believe in him, or even those that do believe in him, but wear a different kind of hat.

No doubt, this chap is as fit and proper as everyone else I’ve mentioned thus far in my column. I expect Lewis will be appalled as me about Naseer, filled with thoughts of murdering people, all in the name of his god, filling me with as much angst as the masturbating marvel he filmed.

I wish I could end there, but sadly, I cannot, we have licensed drivers across the country (or formerly licensed drivers) who are currently on remand, convicted or on the run in the Indian sub continent for CSE.

Worryingly, these are just the ones that have been caught, imagine for one moment if it was just the tip of the iceberg.

Imagine for one moment if a situation arose where a driver could legally work many miles away from his area of license, anonymously, imagine the havoc that may bring?

I fail to mention the reports of licensed drivers defecating in the gardens of Stanwell near Heathrow. I don’t know about you, but if I spotted a minicab driver pooing near my dahlias I’d be rather upset, I may even rub the offenders nose in it, I mean its bad enough with cats.

I have been involved in the cab trade my entire life, from my position as a spectator, I have to say the standard of person being licensed now is at a rather low ebb.

This is despite the many courses for disability awareness, BTEC, NVQ, group two medicals, DBS checks and new CSE courses being rolled out across the country.

I am not sure if the BTEC or NVQ has a pooing on a person’s lawn section, perhaps they should consider it.

As you would expect, nobody is bothered, save for those with lawn issues. The people able to make changes do not overall use taxis or PHV’s, so why would they be troubled?

Greater regulation is generally perceived as greater restriction, the market must be free. So this is why some councils are lowering the entry criteria, they know applicants will go elsewhere with their cash, and return because of other councils turning blind ones.

We deal with the kind of people who pay the law commission to look at taxi and PH licensing then shove the report, a report that cost nearly half a million quid, into row z.

Can you blame them? The only people being raped and molested are on the whole working class people, and they certainly aren’t bothered about them.

I realise Mr Blair was a bit lame, but please tell me why working class people vote Tory? You are not a millionaire, so all they want from you is your vote they certainly don’t want you for your table manners or your aroma.

Maybe this is my point, and maybe the sooner most of you begin to realise that nobody is bothered about you or our profession the sooner you will begin to relax and enjoy life a little more.

We are nothing more than a necessary inconvenience to authorities, the contempt for us is shown by the people to whom they grant licenses. Something that has to be licensed, but nothing more than a box ticking exercise.

In what other profession would someone who cannot speak, read or write in English be given a job, when throughout the day they are expected to deal with the public?

Ordinarily, if someone was unable speak English, they wouldn’t be hired to work on the checkout at Tesco or to work reception at a hotel. In the cab trade, they are given a driver’s seat.

When authorities see the foolishness of doing this, they proceed to insult everyone they have already licensed by insisting everyone, even those who can easily converse in the mother tongue and correspond in English, are made to sit down on the same insulting courses. Just to rub more salt into the wound, in some cases drivers are made to pay.

Of course, I am being harsh here.

For one moment lets ignore those who can’t drive properly, those who like rape, those who like under age sex with children, masturbating at traffic lights, defecating on lawns and everything else.

Its councillors that employ licensing officers and develop policy, officers act under their direction. You elect councillors; it is therefore your fault for electing lackadaisical, uninformed, naïve and uncaring people to make decisions and policy on your behalf.

It would appear a rumour is circulating like Chinese whispers over the internet blaming links between the Prime Minister and that damn apps Rachel Whetstone, Senior Vice-President of Policy and Communications.

I think the conspiracy buffs need to get over themselves. I realise the ‘X files’ is back on the television, but really?

You would believe that if that damn app was so perceptive with the local government miscellaneous provisions act 1976, they’d have been pushing for changes in the law.

Indeed, you would have expected them to write to the Law Commission when major changes were being considered.

Why would that damn app company not write to the law commission and say hey, these cross border rules are stupid? Would it be ignorance? stupidity? relevance? Do we find out at long last that a billion dollar company just simply forgot to write to a body that was intending to change the rules it works under?

Indeed, prior to the deregulation act, one private hire lobby group answered the following question from the DfT as follows;

The first proposal is to allow PHV operators licensed in England (outside London) and Wales to sub-contract bookings to an operator licensed in a different district.

The PHRC not only agrees this proposal would reduce a burden / remove an inherently unfair geographic restraint of trade, but that it is a very small legislative change that will transform the way the private hire trade operates and create employment, improve responsiveness to customer bookings and reduce CO2 vehicle emissions by reducing the distances travelled by PHVs without carrying passengers.

Indeed, in the recent past the following was stated before parliament by another private hire group.

In a modern Britain there should be no ‘invisible borders’ or ‘barriers to free trade’, as protectionism and outdated thinking belongs to yesterday. In London for environmental and safety reasons ‘Licensed Operators’ in Private Hire are not constrained by ‘quotas and artificial operating borders’, etc., and rightly can pick up and drop anywhere with a previously made booking.

Of course, the above was then, now that damn app is taking drivers away from private hire operators.

In addition to the above in London there is strong evidence that Uber PHV Drivers are travelling into the London Licensing Area (Cross Border) and parking vehicles without bookings that are then being ‘virtually hailed’ via the Uber App, which shows their availability and position, so they are acting like a taxi.

Suddenly those ‘invisible borders’ or ‘barriers to free trade’, as protectionism and outdated thinking belongs to yesterday.’ don’t look too bad.

Cynical? You bet your ass.

Calls for dedicated Private Hire Insurance database

The Chauffer reports – It’s been estimated there could be up to 279,000 uninsured taxi and Private Hire Vehicles operating on the UK’s roads – so now, an insurance company is calling for the introduction of an online portal allowing authorities to check policies.

The Taxi Insurance Checker (TIC) is the brainchild of industry brokers Plan Insurance which wants to see the database introduced to the industry. It would provide authorities access to live information regarding the validity of PH driver’s policies and whether it provides cover for carrying passengers for the purposes of Hire & Reward.

After TfL’s recent Private Hire regulations consultation, discussions have begun with key industry insiders to tackle issues of insurance fraud committed by private hire drivers. It comes after a spate of protests by the black cab trade calling for stricter enforcement of existing regulations. Cabbies have staged a series of demonstrations over last year targeting both Uber and TfL against what they feel is an uneven playing field.

Ryan Georgiades, Managing Director, Plan Insurance Brokers; “If implemented, we believe the plans being discussed will significantly reduce the number of taxi and private hire drivers able to perpetrate insurance fraud, whilst at the same time also improving safety and offering peace of mind to passengers and authorities alike.”

An insurance audit report leaked to the BBC in 2010 revealed 93% of 1,200 taxis inspected (outside of London) were not sufficiently insured. Since this research was conducted little has been done to improve regulators’ abilities to enforce and monitor driver’s insurance cover requirements. If the 93% figure is applied to current taxi numbers in the UK today, it would equate to 279,000 uninsured taxi and PHV drivers on the UK roads and over 88,000 in London alone.

Plan Insurance has been busy lobbying organisations with a vested interest in the implementation of TIC or a similar system. You can find out more about the proposals on the Plan Insurance Blog.

source: http://www.thechauffeur.com/

“Predator” taxi driver jailed for sexually assaulting drunken passenger

John William Patton

A TAXI driver sexually assaulted a drunken woman after taking her home following a night out, a court heard.

John William Patton was said to have taken advantage of the young woman’s condition and carried out the assault having helped her from his cab into her home near Durham, in the early hours of Sunday March 1 last year.

Durham Crown Court heard that the woman recalled that on coming round from her drunken stupor she became aware of the defendant trying to tug her tight-fitting dress off her.

In her recorded police interview, played to the court, she said she exclaimed: “What the f*** is going on?”

She said that Patton’s response was simply to walk out and leave the flat.

Paul Cleasby, prosecuting, said that Patton collected the 20-year-old woman from Durham city centre, at 2.20am, and that she was helped to his car, by a man he did not know.

Patton claimed he dropped the woman off first, before the man who assisted her into his car.

But, when the male passenger was spoken to, he said Patton took him home first, to Birtley, north of Chester-le-Street, before taking the woman home.

The defendant, of Thirlmere Avenue, in Easington Lane, Houghton-le-Spring, changed his account and accepted that he had dropped the man off first, before taking the woman home.

The 48-year-old self-employed driver, who is of previous good character, had denied a charge of sexual assault.

He told his trial that he merely helped the woman into her flat and that she must have been confused.

Patton said he could not explain why she might say that he was trying to remove her dress.

Following a three-day trial, the jury returned a guilty verdict, by a 10-2 majority.

Jailing him for four years, Judge Christopher Prince said Patton’s actions were like, “a predator, preying on the vulnerable”.

He made Patton subject of registration as a sex offender for life.

The judge also praised the “chivalrous” assistance given to the victim by the unnamed man when he came across her in her drunken condition, in Durham, that night.

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

Dad-of-four risked fire in family home by setting up £100,000 cannabis farm

Private-Hire driver jailed for endangering lives of his children

A dad-of-four risked starting a fire in the home he shared with his children by setting up a £100,000 cannabis farm.

Private Hire driver Iain Fell, 49, sobbed in court as a judge said he endangered the lives of his two daughters, aged six and seven, and two adult sons.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the electricity meter at his house in Belgrave Street, Wallasey was bridged and a dangerous wire leading to the crop could have set the property ablaze.

Recorder Abigail Hudson today jailed Fell for 20 months after he admitted producing 128 cannabis plants to try and pay off a £20,000 debt to loan sharks.

The judge said: “This is aggravated very significantly in my judgement by the presence of your children in that house, particularly your very young daughters.

“They were both exposed to danger, not just to the risk of fire, but of dangerous criminals breaking in, in order to steal your crop.

“They were also exposed to the risk that they grow up with the assumption that cannabis use is normal, as opposed to the destructive force that we know it to be.”

Simon Duncan, prosecuting, said police raided Fell’s house at around 5.40pm on May 22 last year.

Officers found 23 mature plants in one bedroom, 16 mature plants in the master bedroom and 89 plants, some of which were dying, in the loft.

Fell returned home shortly afterwards with his daughters.

He told police he set up the farm because he was “20 grand in debt”, before adding: “I don’t even smoke it.”

Mr Duncan said Fell also admitted abstracting £3,290 of electricity to power lighting equipment within growing tents.

He said: “There was a wire leading upstairs, which according to the electrician who inspected it, posed a danger of fire and could have put lives in danger.”

Fell, who has no previous convictions, told police he set up the farm himself after being promised £18,000 in return for the cannabis.

Dad-of-four Iain Fell, of Belgrave Street in Wallasey, risked starting a fire in the home he shared with his children by setting up a £100,000 cannabis farm

John Ballam, defending, said his client had been suffering from mental health and severe financial problems, which drove him to commit the crime.

He said it was a “very sad case” and that Fell was a “hard-working bloke”, struggling with depression after the break-up of his marriage, whose two daughters were now no longer living with him because of these offences.

Mr Ballam said: “The defendant says those bedrooms were locked and there was no access to the loft to the children.”

He said Fell, who volunteers as a minister and a healer at a local church, twice refused the offer of setting up a cannabis farm to pay off loan sharks, but “got so desperate” that he finally agreed.

Mr Ballam said: “He acknowledges it was a most foolish and stupid thing to do and it was totally illegal.”

He added that his client was likely to lose his job as a private hire driver if sent to prison and urged the judge to impose a suspended sentence.

Recorder Hudson accepted he was a “devoted family man” who loved his children and had been struggling financially.

But she said this was more than just a “silly mistake” and a decision that could have led to “loss of life” in his home.

The judge said: “I accept those rooms were locked but those children must have been aware that something was happening.”

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

Hertsmere Council holds sessions to help spot child sex exploitation

Hertsmere Council held training sessions to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation last week for people working in the taxi and private hire trade.

More than 100 drivers and operators, along with council staff, attended the sessions in Borehamwood on Tuesday, March 1, which were staged following the high-profile independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.

The inquiry highlighted significant concerns regarding safeguarding controls for taxi and private hire licensing in the city, and found taxi and private hire vehicles had been used extensively by those directly involved in the sexual exploitation of children to move children around the city and to other cities.

Hertsmere Council leader, Morris Bright, said: “Licensed drivers are in a unique position because of things they might see and hear, or they might have passengers on board who seem vulnerable. Reporting this plays a key role in combating child sexual exploitation. “We take protection of the public very seriously and the education of our drivers to help identify signs of child sexual exploitation is one of the many steps we are taking to keep our communities safe.”

For more information about child sexual exploitation, visit https://www.herts.police.uk/advice/chil … sites.aspx

source: http://www.whtimes.co.uk/news/