Tough taxi rules to protect passengers

Stricter controls - people convicted of murder, manslaugher and sex offences will not be given a cab licence under new guidelines
Stricter controls - people convicted of murder, manslaugher and sex offences will not be given a cab licence under new guidelines

TOUGH new rules will ensure people convicted of serious sexual or violent offences are prevented from driving taxis.

Basildon Council’s Licensing Committee will consider stricter guidelines surrounding who should be denied a taxi licence tomorrow.

These will make sure drivers with a conviction for rape, sex assaults, or sexual offences involving children, are barred.

Applications will also not be considered for at least three years after convictions for lesser sexual offences, including indecent exposure and kerb-crawling.

The aim is to protect passengers in the district and it has been welcomed by cab drivers around the town. Steve Foster, who owns Basildon company A & B Taxis, said: “People should be stopped from driving taxis if they’ve committed a serious enough offence.

“I’m sure my daughter wouldn’t want a convicted murderer driving her around in the middle of the night.”

The new rules are more specific than previous regulations.

Licences will be denied to drivers with convictions for murder, manslaughter, or terrorism offences.

Applicants will be barred for three years after conviction for possession of a dangerous weapon.

However, the rules appear to have been relaxed over drink-driving offences.

Long-term Basildon cabbie Ralph Morgan, 67, added: “I actually think they should be harder on people convicted of drink-driving.

“These new rules are all very sensible, so long as they are properly enforced. The council hasn’t been very good at doing that in the past, because it’s licensing department is too short-staffed.”

Under the new regulations drivers can still apply to drive taxis after a first conviction for drink-driving.

However, it states: “More than one conviction for these offences raises significant doubts as to the applicant’s fitness to drive the public. At least three years after the restoration of the driving licence following a second drink-drive conviction should elapse before an application will be considered.”

Under the previous rules, drivers had to wait at least three years after their first drink-driving conviction before applying.


Postal delays caused Norwich taxi driver to lose his job

Frustrated taxi driver Paul Arnold, who has been unable to work as his licence renewal did not reach Norwich City Council in time for processing. He is upset that he can now not work because of the postal delay that has robbed him of his livelihood

A Norwich taxi driver spoke of how his “home life was ruined” after postal delays caused him to lose his job when his taxi licence was not renewed on time.

Paul Arnold, whose partner is six months pregnant, was told Norwich City Council would not renew his licence because it arrived two weeks late, despite the fact he sent it five days before it was due. And now the 30-year-old believes he could be set to lose up to £5,000 if he is out of work for the 13 weeks it can take to renew a taxi licence.

Mr Arnold of Woodyard Close, Mulbarton said: “I am willing to work, and I want to work, but because of some postal mistake along the way I have lost my livelihood.

“My other half is six months pregnant and I need all the money I can get at the moment to pay for the car, the house and god knows what other finances.”

The father-to-be, who worked for Norwich-based Best Way taxis, sent his licence renewal first class on December 8, but due to Royal Mail delays caused by snow, the letter did not reach the council until December 27.

The council told Mr Arnold that there was nothing they could do and he would have to apply for a new licence, which can cost upwards of £250 – £159 more than it costs to renew a taxi licence.

This means he will have to re-take the tests you need to be granted a licence, including a medical, a driving theory test, a knowledge test, and a criminal bureau check, which can 13 weeks to process.

Mr Arnold continued: “I called the Royal Mail to see if I could get some compensation. They said I used a standard service and they could only refund me the cost of a first class stamp.”

A spokesman for the Royal Mail said they would always encourage people whose items need guaranteed delivery to pay for a recorded service to make sure it is delivered on time.

Meanwhile, a spokesman from Norwich City Council said: “We send out reminder letters, about six weeks ahead of the renewal date. Legal guidance is very clear on lapsed licences which states that if a taxi licence has lapsed then a new licence must be applied for.”


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Wokingham taxi drivers call for licence cap

Taxi drivers in Berkshire have written to a council calling on it to cap the number of new licences it issues.

Drivers in Wokingham said there was not enough business to go round and trade was down by about 30%.

In the letter, the drivers said they were being forced to work longer hours for less financial gain.

Wokingham council said the number of licences issued in recent years had not increased significantly, but it would listen to concerns.

Imran Hussein, from the Hackney Carriage Drivers’ Association in Wokingham, warned drivers were struggling to afford living costs.

‘Saleable commodity’

He said: “Wokingham has no regulation in place, it is open so as long as you fill the criteria. Everyone is welcome.

“Adjoining local authorities, like Reading, Bracknell as well as Maidenhead, all have regulation in place which protects drivers’ livelihoods.

“It is a triple whammy of too many new incomers, high fuel prices and less demand due to money worries in the recession.”

In Wokingham, drivers need to pass a medical test, a Criminal Records Bureau check and provide two character references, as well as other checks.

Councillor Barrie Patman, chairman of the licensing committee on the Conservative-controlled Wokingham council, said: “The the total number of vehicles that we have got licensed has been roughly the same for the last three years.

“The government advice to us is not to do that [introduce a cap] because the taxi licences start to become a saleable commodity.

“But we will be prepared to talk to the drivers on this issue.”


Safety breach taxi driver finally off the road

A Carlisle cab driver who was stripped of his taxi licence for safety breaches is finally off the road following a two-year legal battle.

James Douglas Jeffery, 41, had his licence revoked by the city council’s regulatory panel in January 2009.

Routine inspections found a catalogue of faults on his 2001-registered black cab.

The steering was suspect on six occasions, there were five counts of faulty brakes and lights, four instances of defective bodywork and three suspension faults.

The most recent inspection revealed two illegal tyres.

Councillor David Morton, who chairs the panel, said at the time that Mr Jeffery was not a “fit-and-proper person” to hold a hackney carriage licence.

Mr Jeffery’s appeal was dismissed by Carlisle magistrates in September 2009.

He appealed again to the Crown Court where Judge Barbara Forrester upheld the council’s decision last May.

His final throw, an application for judicial review, was dismissed by the Administrative Court on December 21.

Mr Jeffery, of Welsh Road, Harraby, was able to continue driving a taxi while his appeals were pending but did not use the black cab that was found to be faulty.

His licence has now been revoked and he has been ordered to pay £500 towards the council’s legal costs.


Leeds cabbie stabbed in neck

A taxi driver may have escaped death by millimetres when he was stabbed in the neck by a mystery “passenger”. The motive for the south Leeds attack was still unclear last night and detectives were waiting for him to recover sufficiently to interview him about the shocking incident.


The private hire driver, who works for Speedline Taxis, was detained in hospital last night in a “stable” condition after detectives from City and Holbeck CID earlier launched a major inquiry to trace his attacker.

The 22-year-old victim suffered a serious wound to his neck in the incident believed to have occurred between 7pm and 8pm on Wednesday night in the Belle Isle area of Leeds.

The weapon used is believed to have missed vital areas which could have killed the man.

Police sealed off a long stretch of the newer section of the Middleton Ring Road, Belle Isle, overnight after launching enquiries and some hours later the taxi driver’s black Skoda car was still parked nearby in Hopes Farm Road covered by a police forensic protective tent.

Det Insp Paul Smith, of City and Holbeck CID, said: “Enquiries are very much ongoing and we are keen to trace anyone who saw a dark-coloured saloon private-hire car in the Middleton Ring Road area between 7pm and 8pm.

“Anyone with information is asked to contact City and Holbeck CID via 0845 6060606.”

Later Mr Mohammed Latif, a director of Speedline Taxis, Burmantofts, Leeds, said the injured driver was one of its staff. He had only recently married and had worked for the firm for about four or five weeks.

He understood the driver had undergone emergency surgery on his neck. It was believed a knife had possibly been used to inflict the wound, said Mr Latif. Police had told him that if the wound had been just millimetres to the side it could have been fatal.

Mr Latif said the driver was a Leeds man of Asian origin. He understood he may have earlier dropped a friend off before he was attacked.

Mr Latif added that sadly attacks on taxi drivers appeared to be no longer a rarity and it was concerning that Council funding previously provided to half-fund the installation of closed-circuit TV cameras in taxis was being withdrawn.


Free-for-all on adverts could pay for in-cab cameras

Driver Neal Storton, of Metro Taxis in Keighley in his car fitted with a camera

Strict rules on adverts carried on taxis and minicabs have been relaxed by Bradford Council to encourage CCTV systems to be fitted to the vehicles to help protect passengers and drivers.

Private hire firms will now be allowed to cover the entire bodywork of their cars with advertisements. Hackney Carriages will only have to keep the front door panels clear to display the city crest and green stripe.

In exchange, firms will have to commit to fitting CCTV systems in the vehicles within two years.

Previously, the Council had insisted CCTV was installed within a year and adverts were restricted to bonnets, back doors, back wing panels and boots. Bigger vehicles were only allowed them on bonnets, side panels on rear passenger doors and on a back panel.

The re-think has occurred because of the failure of the original policy to encourage take-up of CCTV.

No Hackney Carriage operators had applied for adverts since the guidelines were introduced in 2007. There has only been a limited response from private hire firms.

The Council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee voted to adopt the revised policy yesterday.

Officers said CCTV could be installed in a vehicle from as little as £500 and hoped the new policy would give firms more time to generate advertising income to pay for equipment.

Committee member, Councillor Sajawal Hussain (Lab, City) said: “CCTV is essential. They should be installed for the safety of the drivers and, more importantly, the passengers.”


Taxi fee rise sparks rage

Plans to increase taxi licence fees has sparked anger.

Derbyshire Dales District Council is set to discuss proposals to raise Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing fees by 4.6 per cent, in the New Year.

The application fee for an operator’s licence, which is renewed every three years, will increase from £215.25 to £225.15, vehicle licence fees, which are renewed every year will increase to £268.00 from £256.00.

Tracey Shelton, of MJs Taxis in Wirksworth said: “I find this absolutely disgusting.

“How on earth do you expect us to keep carrying on paying out and paying out. The work isn’t there any more. Money is very tight”

The proposals, recommended for approval, will be discussed in Matlock Town Hall on Thursday January 6 at 6pm.