Government department raises concern over Sheffield Council’s new policy on private hire

A Government department has raised concern at Sheffield Council’s changes to its taxi licensing policy.

The Competitions and Markets Authority raised a number of issues as plans were laid out on new policy for private hire taxi firms in the city.

The CMA said they were concerned about new rule restricting drivers to work for one private hire operator and making firms have a permanently staffed helpline based in the city.

The body also said It was ‘not necessary’ to require all firms to offer seven day advance bookings.

CMA acting chief executive Andrea Coscelli, sent a letter to Sheffield Council’s licensing boss Steve Lonnia expressing their worries consumers could end up paying more through the extra restrictions.

But Sheffield Council said they had taken on board the CMA’s and passed the new private hire policy with some amendments.

A CMA spokesman said: “Last year we looked at the Sheffield market and cleared a merger of major taxi/private hire firms because we expected competition from app-based operators.

The letter explains why some planned Council measures may stifle competition without necessarily benefitting consumers.

“It is not necessary to require a permanently staffed helpline within the city – this increases costs for operators, which passengers will then pay for;

“Only allowing owner-drivers to work for one operator means they are all likely to choose the biggest operator, so passengers could end up with only one operator to choose from, and thus there is no competition.”

Councillor Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for the environment at Sheffield Council said: “The Licensing Committee approved a new Private Hire Operator & Vehicle Policy with some minor amendments.

“We listened to the concerns raised against some of the proposed conditions and made changes to the policy to address this. We will continue working with the Government and taxi operators to ensure our residents and visitors feel safe when travelling in Sheffield.”

Letter to council – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/s … -09-16.pdf

Read more at: http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/governmen … -1-8164714

Swansea private hire operator fined a second time for employing unlicensed drivers

A PRIVATE hire operator has been prosecuted for a second occasion for licensing offences, including employing unlicensed drivers.

Matthew Benjamin, operator of MCB Executive Travel in Swansea, pleaded guilty at Brecon Magistrates Court to five charges, after being found on four occasions to be employing unlicensed drivers to undertake hirings, as well as failing to produce his private hire operator records as required.

It follows a prosecution for similar offences earlier this year.

The prosecutions were both brought by environmental health service department of Powys Council, the authority which licenced the business.

John Powell, cabinet member for environmental health, said: “The purpose of licensing the hackney carriage (taxis) and private hire trade is to ensure the safety of the public by ensuring that drivers are fit and proper and that the vehicles they drive are safe, suitable and reliable.

“This case should act as a warning to the trade that if they fail to obtain the necessary licences for their vehicles and drivers the council will take the appropriate action. Our licensing officers will continue to make sure that vehicles and their drivers comply with the important safeguards.”

Benjamin was fined £600 for each of the charges, and ordered to pay £2,125 legal costs and a surcharge of £60, bringing the total to £5,185.

In May, he had pleaded guilty to offences at Llandrindod Wells Magistrates’ Court, including employing an unlicensed driver to carry passengers, in a prosecuting also brought by the authority.

Benjamin pleaded guilty to three charges and was fined £350 for each of the charges. He was also ordered to pay £240 legal costs and a surcharge of £35, a total of £1,325.

It is the duty of all private hire operators to ensure that all vehicles and drivers employed by them are licensed to do so, in order to ensure both vehicles and drivers are safe and fit for purpose.

Read more at http://www.southwales-eveningpost.co.uk

Tories launch crackdown on illegal taxi drivers to cut immigration

Home Secretary Amber Rudd tells Birmingham conference she wants to get tough on immigration

Tories are launching a crackdown on immigrant taxi drivers working illegally in the UK, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced.

The profession was singled out by Mrs Rudd in her speech to the party conference in Birmingham, as she promised to “get immigration under control”.

Net migration, currently 335,000 a year, would be reduced to “tens of thousands”, she said.

Mrs Rudd said quitting the European Union would mean an end to open-door migration from Europe – but the Government also wanted to cut immigration from the rest of the world.

And she announced a £140m Controlling Migration Fund to help public services in areas with high numbers of immigrants.

It’s similar to a policy announced by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at his party conference last week.

Setting out plans to cut immigration in her ICC speech, she said: “From December, immigration checks will be a mandatory requirement for those wanting to get a licence to drive a taxi.”

While she didn’t give any explanation of why taxi drivers were being targeted rather than people in any other line of work, the policy only makes sense is if the Government believes there is currently a problem with people who have no right to work in the UK driving taxis.

Other measures include making it a criminal offence for a landlord knowingly to rent out property to people who have no right to be here.

And banks will have to do regular checks to ensure they are not providing essential banking services to illegal migrants.

The Home Secretary announced measures likely to anger employers and universities.

She said the Government is to consider tightening the test companies have to take before recruiting from abroad, effectively making it harder for firms to recruit foreign staff.

Mrs Rudd said: “The test should ensure people coming here are filling gaps in the labour market, not taking jobs British people could do.

“But it’s become a tick box exercise, allowing some firms to get away with not training local people. We won’t win in the world if we don’t do more to upskill our own workforce.”

And she said rules which allow students to work in the UK will be toughened up – for the less prestigious universities.

“Our consultation will ask what more can we do to support our best universities – and those that stick to the rules – to attract the best talent, while looking at tougher rules for students on lower quality courses.”

She insisted: “This Government will not waver in its commitment to put the interests of the British people first. Reducing net migration back down to sustainable levels will not be easy. But I am committed to delivering it on behalf of the British people.”

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

Scarborough Taxi Driver’s Question MOT Changes

Taxi drivers are questioning why Scarborough Borough Council wants to change the way their MOT tests are carried out.

The council is proposing that all MOT’s for taxi’s and private hire vehicles should be done at the councils own facility rather than at independent garages.

The proposed change is contained in the councils ‘Draft Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Policy’ which has been put out to public consultation. The document regulates the way the industry works in the borough and includes rules about …..

Section 3.4 of the new document states..

All MOT tests and vehicle licence compliance checks shall be carried out at
Scarborough Borough Council’s garage, Dean Road Depot, Dean Road
Scarborough, YO12 7QS. Any MOT tests or licence compliance checks
carried out by any other garage/testing centre on hackney carriage or private
hire vehicles shall not be accepted.

Local taxi driver Will Barraclough says the proposed regulation is unfair

“It’s forcing all taxis to go to the council depot for MOT testing, what this will do is remove the trade from local garages, we thinks that’s £42,000 a year out of the local market, one of the biggest questions is why are they suddenly doing this?”

Will questions what difference the change will make to safety and what message it sends to the public.

“If the council say that the MOT must be done by them, why are they saying that and why is any other garage MOT inadequate, they are all trained by the same governing body – VOSA – everyone is trained the same way, why all of a sudden are local garages inadequate, what sort of reflecting is that going to paint amongst the public? Are they immediately going to think that where they are getting their car MOT’d is inadequate to what the council can offer when in fact it’s the same test.”

Jonathan Bramley, Scarborough Borough Council’s Environment and Regulation Manager said:

“We are aware that the proposed requirement for all private hire and hackney carriage MOT tests and compliance checks to be undertaken at our own depot in Scarborough is of concern to some of those operating in the trade. However it is for good reasons that we are proposing this change. Presently an MOT may be undertaken at any MOT certified garage, anywhere in the country, with the additional compliance checks being undertaken by our licensing officers during a two week period, twice a year. The consistency of existing MOT tests is of concern to us, particularly considering the results from snap inspections we have conducted since October 2015, where faults were found with vehicles which had only recently undergone and passed an MOT test. We do not think this is an acceptable situation for vehicles entrusted with carrying members of the public.

“The revised vehicle testing process we are proposing would combine both test elements into one comprehensive inspection at our depot. Not only will this provide consistency in terms of tests, it will negate the need for drivers to attend separate MOT and compliance visits. It would also allow us to set inspection criteria above that specified in a standard MOT test, for example the testing of fixings and equipment fitted to vehicles that have been modified to carry wheelchairs. At present there is no form of certification that assesses whether such modifications have been undertaken safely and in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions, so we could improve this significantly.

“We know that for the vast majority of licensed drivers customer safety is of paramount importance, so we hope they can understand that the changes we are proposing are simply a way of us ensuring those same high standards are maintained consistently throughout the borough.

“Consultation on the proposed changes is underway with the local private hire and hackney carriage trades and they have until 9 November to respond to it, after which the council will consider all representations before making a final decision in January next year.”

Here are links to:

The Scarborough Borough Council Public Consultation

The Act Against SBC Taxi MOT Policy Petitiion

The Full Draft Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Policy

 

source: Yorkshire Coast Radio

Northampton man caught operating taxi company with forged licence

A Northampton taxi driver has been prosecuted for operating a private hire company using a forged licence.

The 30-year-old man, appeared at Northampton Magistrates Court last Tuesday and pleaded guilty to offences under the Fraud Act 2006, Forgery & Counterfeiting Act 1981 and no insurance.

After being found guilty on all three charges, the man was sentenced to a Community Service Order for 12 months 60 hours unpaid work for false instrument under the Fraud Act, a Community Service Order for 12 months 60 hours unpaid work for making a false document under the Forgery & Counterfeiting Act, eight points on his DVLA licence for having no insurance, a £300 fine for costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

Cabinet member for Community Safety, Cllr Mike Hallam, said: “Having fully licensed vehicles , operators and drivers who work to ensure the safety of Northampton residents is very important to us.

“As part of our commitment to keeping our night time economy and public transport safe, we carry out regular checks and enforcements and we hope prosecutions will act as a deterrent to other people from committing offences in the future.”

Read more at http://www.northampton-news-hp.co.uk/

Bristol taxi driver on trial for attempted murder

The Bristol post reports a taxi driver inflicted a terrifying attack on his ex-wife in which she thought she would die, a jury has heard.

Mourad Tighilt was charged with attempted murder after the incident – but psychiatrists have agreed he is suffering from mental illness and is unfit to either plead or stand trial.

Jurors at Bristol Crown Court were told today that they had to decide whether the 47-year-old, of no fixed address, did the act alleged.

Richard Posner, prosecuting, told the jury Tighilt is too unwell to stand trial and their duty was to decide if he was responsible for inflicting injuries on his wife and was attempting to kill her.

Mr Posner said it was in June last year that Tighilt, a former secretary of the Bristol branch of the National Taxi Association, drove from Nailsea to his former matrimonial home in Bishopsworth, and smothered and pummelled his ex-wife Joanna in her bedroom.

The court heard the attack stopped when one of Mrs Tighilt’s children came into her bedroom, and she called police.

Her ex-husband was arrested shortly afterwards, telling police he had attacked his wife and had heard a female voice in his head.

Mr Posner told the jury: “He said the voice encouraged him to attack and kill his wife.

“He presented as perplexed and distressed.”

The jury watched a video recording in which a bruised Mrs Tighilt gave an emotional account of her ordeal.

Fighting back tears, she said: “I’d gone to bed and I was being attacked.

“There were hands ’round my throat and pillows were put on my face.

“I couldn’t move my hands properly and I was struggling and struggling.

“I couldn’t get free. It was going on and on and on, the pillows, the struggling.

“At one point I managed to get my head out from under the pillows.

“I was trying to get up.

“There was just this pain. I was being punched until I went back down.”

Mrs Tighilt said she tried to fight her attacker off but she couldn’t move.

She said: “It just went on and on. I thought I was going to die.”

She told the jury it was only when one her son’s came to her room and shouted “Stop, stop doing that!” when the attack stopped.

She said: “I didn’t know who it was. It was just, like, a grey figure, so big and ominous.

“It wasn’t like a person. It was a person’s figure.”

She described how every time she tried to fight back she was punched “bam, bam, bam” and fell back.

She said: “I was grabbing something. It didn’t feel like flesh.”

The case continues.

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

Flint taxi driver convicted of rape fled ‘to Syria’

Sultan Amari
Sultan Amari

A Flintshire taxi driver sentenced to 11 years in jail after raping a student twice following a night out has fled the country, a court has heard.

Syrian-born Sultan Amari, 46, from Flint, was due to return to the trial on Monday but sent an email saying he had no intention of returning.
He boarded a flight to Istanbul on Sunday and it is understood he could be headed for Syria.

He was convicted in his absence at Warrington Crown Court.

The last time the father-of-one attended the court was on Friday when he was giving evidence.

A warrant has been issued for Amari’s arrest and police enquiries to trace his whereabouts are ongoing.

During the trial he claimed sex with his victim had been consensual after he had picked her up and had taken her to a house he owned in Chester in July last year.

When it became apparent Amari was not going to turn up at court, the judge Tina Landale told the jury: “All I can say to you is he is not here and we are going to continue with the trial.”

She ordered an investigation into how Amari managed to breach his bail conditions and leave the country.

‘Vulnerable woman’

The court had heard how his victim could not recall anything that happened in between leaving a bar in Chester and waking up naked and alone in an unfamiliar house where he raped her twice over a period of about eight hours.

But she later had a flashback that she was lying face-down on a mattress, unable to move her arms or open her eyes, with a man having intercourse with her.

Amari was given 11 years for each count of rape to be served concurrently.

Judge Landale said: “This was a gross breach of trust with a very vulnerable woman.

“CCTV showed that she was totally incapable of walking in a straight line and she was obviously drunk.

“The public are entitled to be protected by people like Mr Amari but instead he exploited and took advantage of her.”

The victim said her relationship with her mother has suffered, as she feels she cannot be as open about her feelings for fear of upsetting her, and she feels she will never be able to get in a taxi again.

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

Rossendale driver refused passenger with guide dog

A taxi driver refused to pick up a blind war veteran because he had a guide dog.

Cabbie Emmanuel Osayande has been ordered to pay £1,000 in fines and court charges after he was prosecuted by Manchester city council for breaching equality laws.

He also faces the possibility of losing his licence.

Father-of-five Neil Eastwood, who was left severely sight impaired after an accident in 2005, said he was left ‘annoyed, embarrassed and ashamed’.

Under the Equalities Act 2010, blind people cannot be refused access or service – or given substandard access or service – simply because they have a guide dog.

Council chiefs fear many cases go unreported and urged anyone in a similar situation to come forward so investigations can be launched and action taken through the courts.

Mr Eastwood, 56, from Wythenshawe, served in Northern Ireland with the 1st Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, during the seventies.

He’s now an active member of the charity Blind Veterans UK and spoke out to raise awareness and urge other guide dog users to report any similar issues they suffer.

Osayande, 56, of Chatwell Close, Salford, had been sent to collect him from his son’s house in Wythenshawe in February and take him to a hotel in Altrincham.

Mr Eastwood, who relies on Lenny his golden labrador retriever, said: “I rang the office and told them that I had a guide dog and told them to make sure that the driver was aware.

“The company by mistake sent two taxis and they both came almost simultaneously. I approached the first one that I saw come in. He had his window down and shouted ’sorry, I am not taking you’. He said that he would not take my dog.

“I told him that he was a working guide dog but he said he did not care.”

Mr Eastwood quoted the law but Osayande, who holds a hackney carriage licence with Rossendale council but was working for a local private hire firm, refused to take them.

He reported the matter to the council after the second taxi took him back to his hotel.

Mr Eastwood said: “It is a life-knocking experience that really should not be an issue in this day and age. I want to praise the council for their hard work in this case. The message has got to go out to other councils that they should always take action in these cases.

“It happens all the time all over the country and we shouldn’t tolerate it. Drivers could simply put down a cheap blanket in a footwell – it’s that simple.

“Most taxi companies are brilliant but this does happen and far too often. I want guide dog users to know they have options. They should know that it must not be tolerated and above all, these things shouldn’t stop them from going out.”

Taxi drivers can apply for exemptions if for example they can prove they are allergic to dog hair. The council said Osayande was invited to an interview to discuss the incident but failed to attend then didn’t attend Manchester magistrates’ court.

He was found guilty in his absence of refusing to carry an assistance dog under section 168 of the Equality Act 2010, fined £500 with costs of £500 and a £50 surcharge.

Councillor Nigel Murphy said: “Assistance dogs are indispensable for many people with visual impairments allowing them a level of independence that might otherwise be impossible – so it is vital that both hackney and private hire vehicles allow passengers with assistance dogs.

“I hope the severity of this fine reminds all drivers of their responsibilities.”

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

Taxi passenger Mohammed Azhar must pay £1,200 to driver he attacked

A man has been ordered to pay £1,200 compensation to a taxi driver with whom he had a row about a fare.

Mohammed Azhar was already under a suspended sentence for causing grievous bodily harm to his sister when he got into the taxi driven by Mohammed Yahyaei in Huddersfield on June 11.

Joe Culley, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court yesterday the fee to his home in Armitage Road, Birkby , was agreed as £3.50 but when they arrived he complained he had not got the correct change from his £5.

He became aggressive and threw money at the driver and then got into the front passenger seat and they were arguing and waving fingers at each other.

Mr Culley said the victim had hold of Azhar’s wrist and when he struggled and pulled it away he caught him on the nose with the side of his head.

“It is accepted as in his basis of plea that it was done recklessly and caused a bleeding and sore nose,” said Mr Cully.

The driver tried to telephone for the police but Azhar snatched his mobile, telling him not to do so. Another vehicle pulled up and the driver went to his assistance and the phone was returned.

The police were called and when Azhar was searched a metal weapon was found in his pocket known as a Kubotan, which he denied was for self-defence but said he used for religious reasons when tying up items of Asian clothing.

Mr Culley said on February 10 last year Azhar was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for 18 months for inflicting grievous bodily harm to his sister who suffered a fractured eye socket at their home.

The court heard Azhar told a probation officer he only himself to blame for his latest appearance in court, telling her: “I have a problem with anger.”

Jeremy Barton, representing him, said Azhar had a job as a quilter in a bed factory in Huddersfield and had managed to stay out of trouble until near the end of his suspended sentence.

He said actor Darren Day had been convicted of having a similar Kubotan on a key ring in a court case in Scotland and he too had not intended to use it as a weapon which is what it is considered. The driver had not even known Azhar had it.

He urged the court not to jail Azhar immediately and let him return to his family.

Azhar, 26, admitted assault by beating to Mr Yahyaei, possessing an offensive weapon and breaching the suspended sentence. He was sentenced to a total of eight months in prison suspended for two years, an activity requirement and ordered to pay £1200 compensation.

Recorder Michael Slater said he accepted the recent case was “an impetuous flare-up” and warned another breach would lead to an immediate jail term.

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

Met PC sacked for ‘dishonesty’ in dodging minicab fare after night out

A Met Police constable who got into a drunken row with a minicab driver over a £24 fare has been sacked.

Nicola Elston, 30, was told her conviction for making off without paying the fare amounted to gross misconduct when she appeared before a disciplinary hearing.

The panel heard that Elston, who has served with the force for seven years, was branded “relentlessly dishonest” by a judge following a three-day trial at Southwark crown court.

Michael Kirk, for the Met, said that on June 27 last year the Lambeth-based officer took a cab home to Croydon after a night drinking with colleagues but refused to pay the fare on arrival.

The panel was told she had a row with the driver, who claimed she punched him in the stomach. Elston was arrested hours later but told officers at her first interview that she was unable to recall the events of the night before.

She was charged last September and during her trial in March claimed she left the fare in the cab before getting out. Elston was cleared of the assault charge but fined for the fare evasion.

She was called to the disciplinary hearing to answer allegations her behaviour breached the Met’s standards for professional behaviour concerning honesty and integrity.

James Southgate, of the Met Police Federation, told the panel that the conviction had “devastated” Elston.

He added: “She must accept the court ruling but she disagrees with the outcome. She said she left the fare in the cab but the jury didn’t accept this. It did accept she did not assault the driver.

“She made a mistake. She accepts it, learned from it and the court has punished her for it. Please don’t take away this previously unblemished career.”

Elston wore her Pc’s uniform for the hour-long hearing but did not speak.

Assistant Commissioner Helen King concluded that she breached standards of honesty, saying her conviction and comments by the judge meant she could no longer work for the Met.

She added: “I must also consider the aggravating factors and what Londoners rightly expect from the force.”

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