Private Hire Operator guilty of sex offence against 15-year-old

THE owner of a Private Hire firm has been banned from driving schoolchildren after he sexually touched a teenage girl.

Sadiq Choudhry, who runs 24 7 Private Hire, in Swadlincote, was convicted by a jury of four offences of sexual activity with a child.

Choudhry has now been sentenced to a three-year community order and banned from working with children.

A judge at Derby Crown Court said this meant Choudhry, 45, would not be able to transport schoolchildren or young people in his private hire vehicle.

Judge Hilary Watson said Choudhry had preyed on the 15-year-old girl’s vulnerability and called his behaviour “reprehensible”.

She said: “I find your behaviour to be persistent. You ignored clear verbal warnings from her about your intentions but you persisted.

“Your sexual gratification was uppermost in your mind when you preyed on her vulnerability.

“You touched her body in a way that was wholly inappropriate.”

Judge Watson added: “Because of your denial of the offences, she had to go through the account of what happened.

“She had to answer questions from your barrister, who called her a liar.”

Judge Watson said she had decided to pass a community order because if she sent Choudhry to prison the sentence would not be long enough for him to undertake the appropriate rehabilitation programmes.

She ordered that Choudhry, of Broadway Street, Burton, should attend a sex offenders’ group programme.

She also said he should pay £1,240 towards the court’s costs.

He must sign the sex offenders’ register and abide by a sexual offences prevention order for five years.

This includes not going within 50 metres of an educational establishment unless passing in his work, or dropping off or picking up his own children from school.

He must also not be in the company of or seek the company of a child under the age of 16, apart from a blood relative.

Graham Blower, in mitigation, handed newspaper cuttings to the judge about Choudhry’s work in the community.

Mr Blower said: “By and large he is a pillar of the community.

“He has been a parish councillor over the years.”

He said that Choudhry had organised a large fund-raising effort in his community to help victims of the Pakistan earthquake in 2009.

Judge Watson said that references and newspaper cuttings showed “another side” to Choudhry.

She said: “They show a pillar of the local community and one who would put himself out for people.

“And it would appear that it is just this area in which you need considerable help.”

Taxi firms to install spies in the cab in a bid to beat the yobs

SPY cameras are being fitted in taxis to stop yob passengers attacking drivers.

A small number of private hire cars will be fitted with CCTV next month as part of a scheme to reduce incidents of “hate crime” — and police chiefs say they would like to see a camera in every taxi in Bolton.

It comes after a series of attacks on drivers in the town, which prompted one taxi firm boss to put up a £1,000 reward for anyone helping to convict a yob.

Police are cracking down on hate crime, which is defined as crime motivated by issues such as race, gender, disability or sexual orientation.

Taxi drivers, many of whom are Asian, are often victims of hate crime, and police a i m t o s t o p i t using CCTV cameras.

Ch Insp Alan Wood said: “It might lead to our hate crime figures going up, but it could also increase the detection rate.

“The best possible evidence is if we can get someone on CCTV doing it because it will also allow us to prosecute them.

“Eventually the cycle goes round — we stop offenders offending and we reduce hate crime.”

The CCTV pilot scheme will be funded by the Be Safe Partnership, a scheme run jointly by the police, Bolton Council, the fire service and other agencies.

Nick Astley, managing director of Metro Taxis in Tonge Moor, said: “We are hoping to randomly put CCTV in our cars so there’s more security to protect our customers and our drivers.

“I think anything that cuts down crimes against taxi drivers is great because it’s an ongoing problem.

“We want to do something about it before a really serious crime or accident takes place.”

Signs would be put up in the windows of any cars fitted with CCTV. About six hate crimes are reported every week in Bolton, but only about a quarter of them result in prosecutions.

Police have seen a steady increase in detection rates over the last few years but are still working hard to improve the situation.


Teenager pointed ‘gun’ at taxi driver to avoid £9 fare

David Arnott, 19, threatened the cabbie after travelling with two friends from South Bridge to the Craigour area of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Sheriff: Taxi passenger pulled out fake gun.

A teenager who pointed an imitation gun at a taxi driver to avoid paying a £9 fare was ordered to carry out community service.

David Arnott, 19, took a cab with two friends from South Bridge, Edinburgh, to the Craigour area of the city on May 15 last year.

When the taxi stopped Arnott jumped out and pulled out a fake gun, which the driver, William Simpson, believed was real. He then forced him to unlock the doors and let his friends out.

Fiscal depute Melanie Ward told Edinburgh Sheriff Court: “They arrived at around 12.15am and Arnott got out of the car but the other two were still inside.

Arnott removed an imitation firearm and pointed it at Mr Simpson and demanded the driver open the doors. Mr Simpson told the court he did not know the gun was fake and was so alarmed he told them to leave.”

The court heard Mr Simpson was able to finish his shift and then contacted the police.

Arnott, of Willowdean, Bridgend, Linlithgow, admitted intending to not pay the fare and pointing an imitation firearm at the driver.
He also admitted intending to pervert the course of justice by asking a friend to hide the gun for him.

Defence agent Chris Fehilly said Arnott was a nice young man who had gotten into bother after leaving the family home.

He added that he had one previous conviction at Justice of the Peace level for having no licence and no insurance and also said Arnott was back living with his family.

Mr Fehilly said: “It was to be frank an act of breathtaking stupidity by a young man who was extremely inebriated. The imitation firearm was essentially a toy from the property he had been consuming alcohol at and he stupidly took it out with him.

“It is fortunate the gentleman was robust and was able to continue work for the rest of the evening. He is now back in the family home and there has been no offending in the interim. He has taken the offence seriously.”

Sheriff Elizabeth Jarvie QC said she was persuaded not to impose a custodial sentence due to the lack of a long record of offending.

She ordered Arnott to carry out 300 hours of community service and to pay his victim £1000 in compensation.


“Was it worth it for £100?”… Dad-of-four speaks after terrifying taxi ordeal

THE taxi driver victim of a knifeman jailed indefinitely for attempted robbery has today asked “was it worth it for £100?”.

Andrew Michael Reed held a blade to the throat of Middlesbrough cabbie Mehrban Manga.

The would-be robber has since been told he will serve at least three years before being considered for parole.

And Mr Manga, who fought off the 31-year-old, said: “I think he should have got at least 10 years. Over the years he had been using knifes for his crimes.

“I’m pleased no one got seriously hurt. Is it worth doing that for £100? I was determined he was not going to get it.”

Dad-of-four Mr Manga finished off the last five hours of his shift following the terrifying incident last July.

And the 41-year-old said today: “I had to go back to work to calm down a bit. I did not want to go home and be upset.”

Having worked in the town for two decades, Mr Manga said he was just trying to earn a living when he was held up.

The self-employed family man was lured to a secluded spot in Aberdare Road, Grangetown, after picking Reed up in central Middlesbrough in the early hours.

Reed then put the blade to Mr Manga’s neck and demanded cash, but the cabbie grabbed the weapon and wrestled it away. The driver said: “There’s nothing brave about it, it was just reflex that’s all, it was instinct.”

Mr Manga said Reed’s shifty behaviour when he got in the taxi had made him wary. He said: “I was suspicious when he got in; a young lad normally gets in the front.

“He sat in the back. He slid over behind me which I did not like so I told him to move to the left and can you put your seatbelt on.”

Mr Manga said Reed did not specify where he wanted to be, before guiding the driver to a stop. “Towards the end of the cul-de-sac there were boarded-up houses and I said where do you want to be?” he said.

“I never kept my eye on him at the end because I thought he was getting out from the back. He had his legs behind me and he slid over and opened the back door behind me and he said ‘give us what you got’.

“I said ‘what do you mean? and next thing I knew something cold was touching my throat. Next thing, my hands were round the knife. With my right hand I grabbed hold of his knife and with the left hand, I’m sure, I grabbed hold of his wrist.”

Mr Manga used such force that he bent the knife, pictured inset, at a 90 degree angle, before his thwarted attacker fled the scene after about 40 seconds.

He said: “I don’t know whether he wanted to stab me, but he wanted to overpower me to get the money off me. At that time I didn’t think of anything. You either face potentially being stabbed or you take it off them.”

A police chase ensued and Reed was tracked down in St Nicholas Court, Grangetown, where he was living. He was hauled before Teesside Crown Court this week, where he was locked up indefinitely for the protection of the public after pleading guilty to attempted robbery and possessing heroin.

The court heard Reed had a history of offences where he used knives to threaten people. In August 2005 he was jailed for a total of nine years for two aggravated burglaries involving knives in Grangetown the previous December.

He was released on June 22 last year.


Vital maintenance for Edinburgh Waverley station’s south ramp

Vital maintenance for Waverley station’s south ramp

By A. Samuel · February 25, 2011 · Refurbishments, Stations

Waverley Station Edinburgh

Edinburgh Waverley station’s south ramp is to undergo a programme of essential refurbishment between March and May as part of the £130m project to renew the station’s roof and enhance its passenger facilities.

From Friday March 4 until the end of May no taxis or private vehicles will be able to access the station while the structure is excavated, waterproofed and resurfaced.

To help reduce disruption for passengers an additional taxi rank, accommodating up to 12 taxis, will be created on Market Street for the start of the works and the existing taxi rank on Waverley Bridge will also remain available.

For passengers with restricted mobility, step-free access will be available via New Street car park where free, time limited, pick-up and drop-off by taxis and private vehicles will be permitted.

In addition, a dedicated phone-line will be installed close to the existing taxi rank for passengers with restricted mobility to contact customer support at East Coast trains. They will provide assistance and arrange taxi pick-up from New Street car park.

Ron McAulay, Network Rail director Scotland, said: “This project is vital to the long-term future of one of Scotland’s busiest stations and disruption for motorists cannot be avoided.

“We have done everything possible to minimise the length of time the ramp will be unavailable and to put in place a range of measures to limit inconvenience for passengers.”

Network Rail’s £130m upgrade to Edinburgh Waverley will see the station’s 34,000m2 roof entirely replaced by 2014. Funded through Network Rail’s renewals budget, the project will see 28,000 clear glass panels installed over the next three years, flooding the station with natural light and improving the environment for passengers.

The improvements to Waverley will also result in new fully-accessible entrances from Market Street and from Princes Street. The concourse will be resurfaced, furniture will be cleaned or removed and building exteriors will get a makeover. Work will progress in phases with minimum disruption to train services and the operation of the station.

The project to enhance Waverley Steps began two weeks ago. The government-funded scheme will improve accessibility to Princes Street by creating a new covered step and escalator access between Princes Street and the north entrance to Waverley as well as lift access from the station to Princes Street via the roof of Princes Mall.

The first phase of the works will take around 10 months with the steps reopening in December 2011. The second phase of the works to install lifts will completed by July 2012.


Is Weston-super-Mare train station right to double licence fee for taxi drivers?

TAXI drivers operating at Weston-super-Mare train station say they may stop running taxis from the destination in the future after their licence fee was doubled.

First Great Western used to grant the permits to self-employed drivers wanting to pick up passengers from the town centre station at a cost of £300 a year.


However, from this month the licences will be granted by Cabfind, a supplier of taxi management services, which has stated the fee will rise to £600 a year.

Drivers at Weston station are outraged at the massive hike and are refusing to pay the amount saying it is far too expensive, particularly with the majority of passengers walking to town instead of using taxis.

They have held talks with Cabfind, who said it was prepared to drop the figure to £480 but said all drivers must may the amount in full by February 28.

Richard Hopkins, 40, a taxi driver of 12 years, who has operated from Weston railway station for the past three years, says it is unfair and the drivers are not prepared to pay the huge fee.

He said: “Up until now First Great Western have issued the licences but Cabfind take over at the end of the month.

“They are coming in and putting up the licence fee by 100 per cent, which is doubling it from £300 to £600.

“The firm says the reason for the hike is because they base the licence fee on footfall of passengers departing at Weston but they cannot go on that.

“Most people leave the station on foot as we are only five minutes’ walk to the town centre and the beach.

“I have spoken to all the other drivers and they are not willing to pay £600.

“Cabfind has since said it will give us a discount of 20 per cent bringing it down to £480 but this is on the basis of us renewing our licence by the end of the month but this is still too much.

“At the end of the day we are in a recession and we should be getting a discount if anything.

“If drivers are not prepared to pay it, passengers may find no taxis waiting at Weston station.

“One of the longest serving drivers at the station, of 25 years, says he will not bother at that sort of price.”

Mr Hopkins said drivers are also angered by the news Cabfind has awarded a contract to Apple Cars to transport passengers elsewhere in the event of trains stopping, which is a service they have always provided.

He added: “We were under the impression we would still get the work if a train stopped working or there were delays and passengers needed transporting to Bristol Temple Meads by taxi, but we have now heard that has been given to Apple.

“We may as well go and work from another rank for free.”

The Evening Post contacted Cabfind but they declined the opportunity to comment.


Fury as Manchester Airport prayer room closes after fire

Taxi drivers have reacted with anger – claiming around 500 people use the site every week and that it forms a crucial part of their daily routine.
Taxi drivers have reacted with anger – claiming around 500 people use the site every week and that it forms a crucial part of their daily routine.

An islamic prayer room at Manchester Airport which was damaged in a suspected arson attack has been shut – for ‘health and safety’ reasons. The cabin was used by taxi drivers and airport staff for worship but was closed suddenly by airport bosses earlier this week.

Two ceremonial garments inside the room were deliberately set ablaze on September 11 last year – the ninth anniversary of the attacks on New York’s Twin Towers.

Now the centre, on the airport’s taxi feeder park in Ringway Road, has been axed permanently – because chiefs say the building is dangerous and would cost too much to repair. But taxi drivers have reacted with anger – claiming around 500 people use the site every week and that it forms a crucial part of their daily routine.

One driver, a member of the Manchester Airport Taxi Drivers’ Association who are National Taxi Association members, said: “Everyone is furious that we were not consulted. We went to use it as normal and found it was locked up with a sign on the door saying it had been closed.

“Many Muslims go there five times a day to pray – we’ve used it for about a decade and are disgusted that it has shut without warning. We were all very upset when it was set on fire on September 11 and this feels like another kick in the teeth.”

The site is separate from the five prayer rooms in the airport terminals, which are part of the airport’s multi-faith chaplaincy.

Airport bosses say the cabin is unsafe and have told the drivers that they can now use their other prayer rooms.

Detectives said they were uncertain whether the blaze on September 11 last year was ‘religiously or racially motivated’.

An airport spokesman said: “Having had an independent health and safety assessment conducted, we were informed that the building had reached the end of its serviceable life and was beyond repair. We continue to provide other prayer rooms that are easily accessible.”


Taxi Drivers Protest Over Proposed Changes

Taxi drivers in Durham took to the streets in protest yesterday. 60 drivers attended the protest against plans for a shake up in their trade. The County Council is looking at plans to deregulate the service by removing zones and lifting limits on vehicle operation numbers.

Durham City drivers said they fear that there isn’t enough business or space in order to cope with extra vehivles operating and offering services. The council has said a decision on any changes won’t be made until next month, plans were made after a consultation on the future of trade.

Spark FM’s Sam Willey spoke with the chairman of the North East and Cumbria region of the National Taxi association Bob Sneddon, about the protest, this is what he had to say:

 Bob Smedon [0:24]


Steep fines for NYC hacks who refuse to take passengers where they want to go

New York City cabbies who refuse to take passengers to the airport or other faraway destinations are about to face increased penalties for their dereliction.

The New York Post reports that incidents of refusal of service, which rank among the most egregious nonviolent offenses a driver can commit, have risen dramatically, prompting the Taxi and Limousine Commission to crack down. The paper reports that from 2009 to 2010, the number of incidences of service refusal jumped from 1,963 to 2,341, a 38 percent increase.

Currently, the penalty for refusing to pick up a passenger ranges from $200 to $350 for a first offense, and $350 to $500 plus a possible 30-day license suspension for a second offense. The new fines would be $500 for a first offense, and $750 and a 30-day suspension for a second offense within 24 months.

Penalties for a third strike will remain the same: a mandatory revocation of the driver’s license for a third offense with a 36-month period.

By way of explaining the stringent new rulings, David Yassky, TLC Commissioner and Chair is quoted as saying:

A core component of taxi service is that the passenger chooses where to go in the five boroughs. Unfortunately, it is getting to be like the bad old days when taxis wouldn’t go to Brooklyn.

In the drivers’ defense, it should be noted that New York City covers 330 square miles. Driving a passenger to the southermost point in Brooklyn, where fares are few and between, can be a costly proposition in lost time and wages. A second factor is driver safety. Being required to drive a passenger to a remote location, especially after dark, could cost a driver his life.

Before the new rulings go into effect, the City Council will need to vote on the fine schedule.


Stevenage taxi driver guilty of rape

Mahmood will be sentenced on April 1.

A taxi driver has been found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman in his cab.

Tariq Mahmood, 48, of Archer Road, Stevenage, was found guilty at Luton Crown Court on Thursday of the assault in Ripon Road, Stevenage, in the early hours of October 31, 2009.

The jury heard how he had picked the woman up from Stevenage Leisure Park, but stopped en route to her home and assaulted her. She fled the cab after the attack and called police.

“This case has been particularly traumatic and very stressful for the victim who has been incredibly brave in the lead up and throughout this court case,” said Det Insp Steve Keating from Herts Constabulary sexual offence investigation team.

“We hope that she will now be able to put this behind her and move forward with her life.”

He added that Mahmood may have attacked other women and called on anyone with information to come forward.

“The case does date back to October 2009 and we are appealing to anyone who may feel they may have also been a victim of assault by this man. If you think you may have information, please get in touch by calling 0845 33 00 222. All calls will be treated with the strictest confidence.”

Stevenage Chief Inspector Richard Liversidge added: “This was clearly a very traumatic incident for the victim, particularly as the offence was committed by someone who was entrusted by the community. It must be remembered that these offences are not common in Stevenage, but I would always ask members of the public to report any concerns.”

Mahmood, who was at the time licensed by Stevenage Borough Council, had his licence revoked while awaiting trial.

He will be sentenced on April 1.