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/

Should taxi driver vetting be toughened up in the wake of Rotherham sex abuse scandal?

Vera Baird

North East police chiefs and council leaders are calling on the Government to do more to protect taxi passengers

Crime chiefs and politicians have called on the Government to ensure that more protection is offered to taxi passengers from potential sex attackers.

It follows the Rotherham child abuse scandal and that in South Ribble, Lancashire, in which victims were ferried round by cabbies, some of who hadn’t been properly vetted.

A letter – signed by Vera Baird QC, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, Steve Ashman, Chief Constable for Northumbria Police, and the six council leaders who cover Tyne and Wear and Northumberland – has been sent to Transport Minister Chris Grayling.

In it they urged him to make the system of issuing taxi licences more open and transparent.

Currently, they say, it is possible for a private hire or hackney carriage driver to be refused a licence by one local authority only to be granted a licence by another.

Also, local authorities can issue a licence if they are satisfied an applicant is a “fit and proper” person.

However, there is no definition or criteria to what a “fit and proper” person should be.

Ms Baird said: “Rotherham has shown the importance of getting this issue right.

“We have to do all that we can to safeguard and protect vulnerable young people and adults. We are sending a clear message to government, they need to get the rules around issuing taxi licences sorted.

“There is only one chance to get it right and in the interests of safeguarding, no-one with a sexual or indecency offence should be driving a taxi. The Government needs to get this sorted, quickly and the North East stands ready to lead the way in delivering change in this area – but we can’t do it without the Government.”

The letter also urges Mr Grayling to review and update the guidelines as to what sort of criminal offences will be of particular concern when considering fitness and lengths of time whereby an applicant should be free of conviction.

All those who signed the letter said that regulations should make sure anyone with a sexual or indecency offence should be refused a licence, which is not the case at present.

Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “As a group we will always come together to do whatever it takes to keep local residents safe. “It is ludicrous that taxis licence rules set by Government are open to different interpretation by different local authorities.

“This needs tightened up, the same rules should be applied in every area – then we will all have confidence in the rules being used to grant licences.”

The letter to Mr Grayling includes a recommendation that there should be a national database, similar to the Disclosure and Barring Service, of all applicants who have applied for a licence, using a national framework and the reasons for any refusal should be included on the database.

This would allow quick and easy access to local authority staff to see if previous applications have been made and the reasons for refusal.

A Government spokesperson said: “The Government is already leading work with the taxi and private hire vehicle sector to reduce the risks posed to children, young people and vulnerable adults from sexual exploitation by that very small number of drivers who seek to abuse their position of trust.

“Proposals under the Policing and Crime Bill will give Government the power to issue statutory guidance to local authorities so that their taxi and PHV licensing ensures the safeguarding of vulnerable passengers. This will be subject to public consultation.”

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

Commons Questions

Taxis: Disability

Department for Transport written question – answered on 15th September 2016.

Rob Marris Shadow Minister (Treasury)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to increase the number of accessible taxis.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Government is committed to giving disabled people the same access to transport services as other members of society. It also recognises the particularly significant role played by taxis and private hire vehicle (PHV) operators for many disabled people, in helping them to remain active and independent.

It is for local authorities to specify a number of accessible vehicles to be within their licensed taxi and private hire vehicle fleet, and to take account of their public sector equality duties when doing so.

‘Where to Guv, Raqqa?’ UK taxi drivers get Prevent training

Middle East Eye reports that taxi drivers in the UK are being trained to become the “eyes and ears” of local authorities and police in the hunt for potential terrorists as part of safeguarding schemes being rolled out across the country.

Drivers in several British towns and cities are receiving Prevent counter-terrorism training as part of mandatory “knowledge” tests introduced by local councils.

One flagship scheme, run by Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire, northern England, was considered so successful that councillors discussed extending it to staff working in takeaway food outlets and bars.

Manchester City Council also incorporated Prevent awareness into a safeguarding handbook issued to taxi drivers last year, while Dartford Borough Council in Kent is among the latest to introduce Prevent training as part of its safeguarding requirements for taxi drivers.

But taxi industry organisations and trade unions have raised concerns about the training which they say is being introduced in a piecemeal and inconsistent way across the country and risks creating an “air of suspicion” within communities.

Critics of Prevent also questioned the legality of the training and accused the Government of seeking to turn the UK into a “counter-terrorism state” in which citizens were expected to spy on each other.

“This is just one more proof, in a long line of evidence, that Prevent is a legalised, UK-wide spying exercise,” Abed Choudary, of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, told Middle East Eye.

Opponents of the Prevent scheme say it is based on flawed theories about the radicalisation process. Its advocates argue that it is primarily concerned with safeguarding those who are vulnerable to being drawn into extremism. At least 550,000 public-sector workers, including teachers and doctors have received training in spotting signs of radicalisation, according to the Home Office.

Calderdale’s taxi driver training scheme was highlighted in a document produced by the Local Government Association in December 2015 entitled “Councils’ role in preventing extremism”.

The document was produced in response to the introduction of the Prevent Duty last year which required public bodies including local councils and individual public-sector employees to demonstrate “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.

It describes how Calderdale had provided Prevent and other safeguarding training covering issues such as child sex exploitation and domestic abuse to 1,000 licensed taxi drivers in four-hour sessions over the space of three months.

“Taxi drivers have a unique reach into society. Ferrying passengers around, they get to see and hear things that the statutory agencies never could,” it says.

The training has also been made mandatory for new drivers applying for a taxi licence while existing licence-holders are required to complete the course every three years.

“Taxi drivers can play a really important role. They can be our eyes and ears. It is about helping them to understand when they may need to act,” said Jo Richmond, the council’s neighbourhoods and cohesion manager.

Richmond is due to talk about the scheme at a conference on “Tackling Radicalisation and Promoting Community Integration” aimed at public sector workers in November.

According to the LGA document, feedback from taxi drivers on the sessions was “extremely positive”. “It made me realise it’s not all about driving,” one driver was quoted as saying.

But when MEE approached taxi drivers in Halifax for comment, none were willing to speak about the scheme.

“They are just worried. They do it because it is going to earn them a living,” a local source told MEE after speaking to drivers in the town.

At a council meeting in October 2015, councillor Steve Sweeney said that several other councils were looking to follow a similar approach.

At a previous meeting of the council’s communities scrutiny panel, councillors had asked police whether the taxi driver training could be extended to “other people providing services such as takeaways and bars,” according to council minutes.

Calderdale, which covers the town of Halifax and surrounding areas, was made a Prevent priority area – one of 30 in the country – by the Home Office in 2015, meaning it receives funds both for a local Prevent coordinator and for projects run in conjunction with local communities and partners. Just over seven percent of the area’s 200,000 population identified themselves as Muslims at the last census in 2011.

Takeaways and bars

At the communities scrutiny panel meeting in September 2015, police officers told councillors that they spent more time working on far right threats than any other.

A report on the implementation of Prevent to the same panel in March 2015 highlighted the presence of an English Defence League (EDL) branch in the town and said that anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic hate incidents had been reported in the past 12 months.

But it also noted, as pertinent in the local context, that: “There continues to be empathy for the plight of individuals in Syria and Palestine and local charity collections/events continue to take place.”

Calderdale’s safeguarding training was implemented by West Yorkshire Police and an external trainer, Nadeem Mir, a former police chief inspector in Greater Manchester where he implemented a similar scheme.

In August 2015, Manchester City Council  issued a safeguarding handbook to 6,000 taxi drivers which contained a section on terrorism and extremism.

“The handbook has been developed to raise awareness about reporting crime and is an opportunity to encourage drivers who are the eyes and ears of our community to report intelligence and any suspicious activity to police,” said Chief Inspector Laura Marler of Greater Manchester Police.

The handbook tells taxi drivers that they should trust their instincts in reporting anything that they believe to be suspicious.

A case study describes a teenage girl on the way to the airport speaking on the phone to someone who she says she will meet her that night on the border of Syria. Another described a mobile phone left in the back of a taxi with a Nazi symbol as a screensaver.

“Preventing terrorism is challenging because it operates in a pre-criminal space before any criminal activity has taken place. It is about supporting and protecting people who might be susceptible to radicalisation, ensuring that they are diverted away before any crime is committed,” it says.

“The nature of your job means you are in contact with people all day long and in some cases for long periods of time. You will know instinctively when someone is acting suspiciously or if something is out of the norm.”

A spokesperson for Manchester City Council confirmed that the contents of the handbook were included in safeguarding tests for taxi licence applicants.

In Dartford, councillors in June agreed to introduce Prevent training as part of the “knowledge test” for taxi license applicants. A star-rated “Better Cab” accreditation scheme was introduced in which to acquire the maximum three-star rating drivers were required “to undertake and pass Council’s Prevent Training”.

A safeguarding advice document for drivers advises them to “take note of odd or unusual behaviour by tenants or guests at a property – terrorists need somewhere to live”.

Tougher licensing rules and mandatory safeguarding training for drivers have been introduced by many councils since a 2014 report into child sex abuse in the Yorkshire town of Rotherham concluded that taxi drivers had played a prominent role in the exploitation of hundreds of children over almost two decades.

In Calderdale, 17 men were convicted in June of systematically grooming and sexually abusing teenage girls in Halifax over a number of years.

Representatives of taxi driver trade organisations told MEE that safeguarding schemes were becoming more common, but questioned the inconsistent way in which they were being implemented and the expectation that drivers should monitor their customers.

‘At the end of the day we are only driving cabs’

“Not only have we got to spot potential sex offenders, now we have got to spot terrorists. There are all kinds of courses and schemes that taxi drivers have to take on and they just seem to be getting imposed. At the end of the day we are only driving cabs,” said Wayne Casey of the National Taxi Association.

Casey alos said that trade organisations and unions representing taxi drivers had not been consulted in developing appropriate courses.

Charles Oakes of the Bolton-based Hackney Drivers Association also said it was questionable whether safeguarding training would make any difference.

“It is basically just telling drivers what to look for. Usually these training sessions finish well within an hour,” he said.

“Taxi drivers are expected to be doctors, social workers, all sorts of things that this trade has never needed. I just wonder at times whether the councils are doing this to make themselves look good.”

Prevent, a strand of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy focused on tackling extremism, faces complaints that it is discriminatory against Muslims and based on flawed theories of radicalisation.

Its advocates argue that it is primarily concerned with safeguarding people vulnerable to being drawn into extremism and has made a positive impact in the lives of thousands of people, but questions have been raised about the quality and consistency of training.

MEE revealed earlier this month that 24 courses deemed unsuitable for a Home Office Prevent training catalogue were still being sold to schools and other public sector institutions.

But the extension of Prevent training to taxi drivers highlights the strategy’s reach in the private sector as well.

A spokesperson for the Unite union, which represents taxi drivers, told MEE: “This move has the potential to create an air of suspicion in communities where we should be building unity. Our members feel deeply uncomfortable with this approach and Unite will be lobbying politicians to rethink this ill thought out strategy.”

Kevin Blowe, the co-ordinator of the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), part of the Together Against Prevent activist campaign, said it was questionable whether making the training mandatory was legal.

“I don’t understand how this is lawful, because taxi drivers are neither public bodies nor government contractors,” he told MEE.

“If local councils start demanding that everyone they license must act as Prevent’s ‘eyes and ears,’ then that could spread to include landlord accreditation schemes, food premises, even music venues.

“It’s bending the laws to try and bring more and more people into the army of snoopers.”

Choudary, of the IHRC, said: “The UK has turned into a counter-terrorism state. A state in which the government views people, particularly Muslims, through a security prism and also encourages communities to view one another in the same way. This is the government getting its citizens to spy on one another.”

Middle East Eye sought comment several times from Calderdale Council but a spokesperson said there was nobody available. Dartford Borough Council did not respond to requests for comment.

 

source: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/taxi-drivers-prevent-training-767435376