Private hire in Birmingham driven by criminals, claim black cab drivers

Private hire passengers are being ferried around Birmingham by “criminals on wheels” involved in drug and prostitution rackets, it has been claimed.

A new city council working party has now been formed to investigate allegations that black cab drivers are being driven out of business by unlicensed and uninsured rivals mired in a string of underworld activities.

A cabbies’ trade representative made the claims in an email sent to the authority’s licensing committee chairman Coun Bruce Lines, which was seen by the Birmingham Mail.

The rep, who would not be named, also alleged hotel and bar security workers were being offered cash bungs to illegally steer passengers towards hire cars.

His email said: “After many years as a trade rep, it saddens me the way the travelling public are being treated by what I can best describe as “criminals on wheels” who are prepared to drive without licences or insurance and that Birmingham is the capital of illegal activities.

“Money laundering, intimidation by doormen, mobile thugs in vans and Range Rovers intimidating and threatening hackney carriage drivers from their lawful place of work; drugs and prostitution are all available through private hire that this council is responsible for. No proper in-depth inquiries have ever taken place into the criminals who hide within the private hire operations.”

Coun Lines said the working party would address the concerns of Birmingham’s 1,400 black cab drivers.

“Touting for private hire vehicles is illegal and our enforcement officers are out and about at various locations,” he said. “This is a countrywide problem, not just Birmingham – it is escalating. We have done a huge amount of consultation on this and have now set up a working group in the hope that there will be recommendations before the full committee in the next few months.”

But Coun Lines said illegal touts were “very shrewd”. “They know who the enforcement officers are – it is very hard to catch them,” he said.

Mohammed Farid, the owner of Kings Heath-based Ambassador Cars, said “rogue elements” within the private hire field were not representative of the industry as a whole.

“We do a lot of work in the city centre but it’s all contract-based and we have never seen any examples of these kind of allegations,” he said.

“The majority of private hire companies operate entirely within the law.”

Read More http://www.birminghammail.net/news/

Knowledge tests for Shropshire?

TAXI AND private hire drivers could be forced to take English tests and be quizzed on local landmarks when applying for a licence in Shropshire.

Concerns have been raised that the current tests are not tough enough and the proposed new measures would ensure a good level of service and safety for passengers. Under the plans, applicants would be quizzed on their knowledge of local roads.

They would also face questions on landmarks in the county’s market towns including cinemas, hospitals and theatres.

Drivers would also be required to take a test of their understanding of the English language over the telephone or on a computer with their answers analysed by experts.

Under the proposals, If they fail three times they will not get a licence.

source: http://www.shropshirestar.com/news/

Noisy Norwich private-hire drivers to face crackdown

A meeting of Norwich City Centre Safer Neighbourhoods Team has heard complaints from people living in roads near Prince of Wales Road, who say that private hire drivers are parking up and making too much noise while they wait for jobs.

The concerns raised by people living in the Rose Lane, Maidstone Road and Crown Road areas of the city have resulted in the issue being made a priority by the safer neighbourhoods team.

Now those who complain about private-hire drivers – and other anti-social related problems in the city – are to be given forms to log the nature of the problem and details of those responsible, including licence plate numbers. The forms will then be handed to Norwich City Council and the drivers identified warned about their behaviour which, if it continues, could result in their licences being revoked.

Julian Foster, chairman of the city centre’s Safer Neighbourhood Action Panel (SNAP) said he did not want the crackdown to result in the loss of lots of taxi drivers.

He said: “We want taxis in Prince of Wales Road at night in order to clear the people away from the pubs and bars, but we do want them to behave reasonably and have care for other people.”
Mark Streeter, who owns Courtesy Cars based at Prince of Wales Road in the city and has a part share in Beeline and Dolphin taxis, said all his drivers were briefed about not parking in residential areas.

He said: “We can only do so much to advise the drivers and try and keep everyone happy. The drivers have to be in the city centre because we serve the city centre and the taxi offices are there. It’s a fine line between keeping the drivers where they need to be and keeping Norwich residents happy.”

Mr Streeter said the majority of his drivers were instructed to use the Rose Lane car park where possible to wait for jobs, as opposed to residential streets.

Mr Streeter said all his cars could be tracked by satellite navigation systems to ensure that they were not stopping in residential streets.

Source: http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/

East Cambs taxi driver left with a £6,400 court bill after losing his appeal to magistrates

A TAXI driver from East Cambridgeshire has lost an appeal at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court, after he tried to get a decision to revoke his licence overturned.

Mr Sukri Ahmet, aged 51 from Burwell, who was employed by Burwell Taxis Private Hire and Mini Bus Service, had his Joint Hackney Carriage and Private Driver Licence revoked by the Taxi Licensing Sub Committee of East Cambridgeshire District Council on April 13, after officers became aware of a number of road traffic offences he had committed.

The magistrates have now upheld the decision of the Council, revoked Mr Ahmet’s licence, and ordered him to pay costs of £6427.04.

Cllr Tony Goodge, Chairman of Licensing Committee, said: “While the vast majority of taxi drivers in East Cambridgeshire are law abiding, there maybe one or two who think they can get away with not following the rules and putting in jeopardy the safety of their passengers. This is not acceptable to anyone – to the Council as the Licensing Authority, to the Taxi trade and but most importantly to the passengers who place their lives in the trust of their driver.

“We take very seriously any breaches of Council licensing conditions and the law as we have shown in this case where officers worked incredibly hard to put together the case against Mr Ahmet. We hope this case will be a warning to anyone who thinks they can flaunt the rules that we will take action to rid our taxi trade of the tiny minority who break the law. Our goal is to ensure that when you step into a taxi in East Cambridgeshire you do so in the knowledge that you will have a safe and secure journey.”

Anyone wanting information on licensing issues can call the council on 01353 665555, or contact the authority by e-mail at customerservices@eastcambs.gov.uk or via the website, www.eastcambs.gov.uk.

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

Taxi man sentenced for fall death

A taxi driver sobbed as he received a suspended prison sentence today after a teenage passenger fell out of his moving vehicle and died.

Jawaid Iqbal, 42, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving after Lisa Saville tumbled out of his moving vehicle and hit her head on the ground in City Lane, Wheatley, Halifax, in the early hours of March 4.

The 19-year-old had been on a night out with friends when a dispute took place over the fare which involved another passenger in the taxi.

Bradford Crown Court heard Daniel Briggs became “aggressive and abusive” with Iqbal and it was decided the taxi would pull over.

The court was told Mr Briggs, 25, punched Iqbal in the head before leaving the vehicle.

In a moment of “panic” Iqbal started to move off, leaving Miss Saville in the back of the taxi.

Judge Robert Bartfield told him: “Lisa was left in the back of the cab with the door open or partially open, you nonetheless drove on.

“You should have stopped. What you did was drive a passenger in your vehicle with the door open with the risk that they may seek to leave the vehicle.

“You drove off when you realised she was no longer there in the cab. You did not turn back to see what had happened.”

The court was told Iqbal drove back to the taxi rank and later cleaned his vehicle.

The teenager was on the “very threshold of her life,” the court was told.

The judge added: “Her loss is as devastating today as it was when she met her untimely death.”

Iqbal, formerly of Glenholme Heath, Halifax, received a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years and was banned from driving for a year.

He was also made to do 100 hours unpaid work and ordered not to enter Halifax during the period of the punishment.

The judge said no prison sentence would bring back Miss Saville, but Iqbal, would “have to live with this for the rest of your life”.

The court was told Iqbal, who now lives in the Worcester area, had been psychologically affected by the tragedy.

During a short spell on remand he was seriously assaulted by fellow inmates, the court was told.

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

Call for tougher taxi training as tech-savvy cabbies rely on sat navs

Cabbies could face stricter training amid fears they have lost their way – thanks to their love of sat navs. City bosses are considering a crackdown on drivers after uncovering a series of failures.

Officers believe that once they have undertaken the ‘knowledge’ – the rigorous industry test that makes sure cabbies know their way around Manchester – they no longer pay attention to learning the city’s layout.

A new report due to go before council bosses says some drivers cannot even find Manchester’s most iconic locations. It says: “It is claimed by trade reps that drivers are no longer developing their route knowledge once they have passed their knowledge test and rely instead on satellite navigation technology for journey planning.

“This has been identified as problematic by the trade representatives who indicate that it is not unusual for fellow drivers to ask them for locations of popular Manchester landmarks.”

As the M.E.N. revealed last week, complaints about the city’s cab drivers have soared in the last year. At the time one industry representative called for a council crackdown on drivers who are rude or discriminatory – by providing better training.

Now officers have admitted training is ‘inadequate’. As well as route knowledge, they believe disability discrimination could be a problem.

The report says: “Following receipt of a complaint from a disabled passenger, licensing officers visited the taxi rank at Piccadilly station and ascertained that most drivers on that rank claimed not to know that their vehicles were fitted with a swivel seat and ramps.”

It adds that despite Manchester College creating a disability awareness course for drivers – at the council’s request – it was ditched because too few drivers showed any interest.

Manchester town hall bosses will now consider whether drivers need more customer care, conflict management and disability awareness training – as well stricter driving assessments and route knowledge tests.

Meanwhile half of taxis fail their regular vehicle tests, introduced in 2008.

1,500 complaints against “cabbies” in Greater Manchester

A catalogue of bad behaviour by Greater Manchester’s cab drivers has been uncovered by the M.E.N.

The shocking incidents include indecent exposure, abuse of traffic wardens, failing to report accidents and refusing to pick up disabled people.

Nearly 1,500 complaints were made against drivers last year, according to figures obtained using Freedom of Information laws.

A number have been disciplined or lost their jobs, including:

A Tameside cabbie sacked for talking inappropriately to a female passenger before flashing at her;

A cab driver in Oldham given a two-week suspension for abusing a traffic warden who was giving him a ticket;

A black-cab driver in Hyde banned from driving Tameside taxis after eight complaints about him being ‘extremely’ rude.

A Tameside town hall spokesman said of the Hyde cabbie: “He made various personally insulting comments, entered into arguments with his passengers, swore at them and on occasions refused to pick up disabled passengers or passengers only intending to travel a short distance.”

Other incidents seen by the M.E.N. include another Tameside driver who received a written warning after talking ‘inappropriately’ to a female commuter.

In Oldham, town hall bosses fined five drivers for plying for hire or having no insurance – while one was convicted for failing to report an accident.

Another Oldham cabbie was convicted of plying for hire and suspended for three months – after a girl flagged him down and he drove off with her handbag in his car.

In Manchester, the town hall, which licenses 3,500 cabbies, last year conducted a ‘mystery shopper’ exercise that gave drivers a 76 per cent satisfaction rate. But since then annual complaints have rocketed from 280 to 485.

Sham Raja, of the Manchester Private Hire Association, said council officers should investigate the reasons behind the dramatic rise. He said all drivers are vetted before being licensed – but said he is ‘not happy’ about complaint levels.

He added: “Licensing need to look into this matter and see why there are these complaints. They need to educate the drivers. Personal attitude is very important – you have got to treat customers in a very good manner, not abuse them. They pay your wages.”

Coun Nigel Murphy, Manchester’s executive member for the environment, said the increase is due to the council making it easier to complain.

He added anyone with a complaint can contact licensing authorities through the council website.

Coun Murphy said: “We also have more taxis operating than ever before, which makes it ever more important for the public to contact us if they haven’t received a satisfactory journey, and we are now discussing compulsory training for every taxi driver so they understand the importance of good service.”

The figures also revealed that complaints soared in Trafford – from just seven last year to 66.

Most were about bad driving, although one driver was warned not to make racist comments and another warned for being aggressive.

Rochdale has had 32 complaints this year, mostly about bad attitude and behaviour, but also mobile phone use, litter and bad parking. Stockport had 83 complaints, largely about drivers being unlicensed. In Bolton there were 268 complaints, down slightly on last year. Salford had 118 complaints and Bury 71. Wigan had 145, with a ‘significant’ number being grievances between cab firms.

Source; http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1455745_1500-complaints-against-cabbies-in-greater-manchester

Watford taxi driver cleared of flashing accusation at St Albans Crown Court

A Watford taxi driver was today (Monday) cleared of exposing himself to a 15-year-old girl in his cab.

Syed Haider, 37, was accused of pulling the waistband back of his trousers and showing his p*nis to the girl as he drove around a roundabout in Hemel Hempstead.

He was arrested after she told a friend at school and then told her parents.

But a jury of seven men and five women at St Albans Crown Court found Mr Haider, of Adams Court, Cezanne Road, Watford, not guilty of exposure on September 29, 2010.

They heard that the girl, who suffers from autism, had misbehaved in the taxi on previous occasions and Mr Haider had twice asked the local council to provide an escort as he drove her to school.

David Wales, defending, said there was no independent evidence in the case.

The girl had admitted she did not like Mr Haider because he had told her off in the past.

Mr Wales said Mr Haider was a family man of good character.

As he left the court Mr Haider thanked the jury.

source: http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/news/9196390.Taxi_driver_cleared_of_flashing_accusation/

Taxi driver with speeding offence and ‘two licences’ fails in renewal attempt

A MAN who failed to disclose he had a conviction for speeding and was later found to possess two driving licences has failed in his bid to have his taxi driver’s licence renewed by Scottish Borders Council.

Brian Forbes, who lives in Edinburgh but was once a partner in a Peeblesshire taxi firm, was deemed by SBC’s Civic Government Licensing Committee – which considered his renewal application at a hearing in Galashiels last Friday – to have tried to deceive the council’s licensing department, the DVLA and the police.

And the committee unanimously endorsed the view of police that Mr Forbes was “no longer a fit and proper person” to hold a taxi driver’s licence in the Borders.

A report by Inspector John Scott revealed that Mr Forbes submitted his application for annual renewal of his licence to SBC’s licensing department on June 20 this year, but had failed to disclose he had been convicted of a speeding offence at the JP Court in Edinburgh on May 31.

Mr Forbes had been caught on camera driving a Mercedes taxi on the A90 in Edinburgh in December last year at 68mph in a 40mph zone.

With his application for renewal, Mr Forbes submitted an unendorsed driving licence, despite police systems indicating it had been endorsed on May 31.

“On June 28, Mr Forbes told police his driving licence had not been endorsed … as he had lodged an appeal which was currently ongoing with the court following their [the court’s] refusal to accept payment of the initial fine of £60 and three penalty points,” said Inspector Scott.

“Mr Forbes was advised to submit another application with the convictions [he was also fined £50 for a road traffic offence in 2003] listed.

“Later that day, Mr Forbes told police that on the advice of his solicitor he had decided to drop his appeal and accept an increased fine of £160 and five penalty points.

“He said he would contact Edinburgh JP Court and make the necessary arrangements, and he would forward his driving licence to SBC once it had been endorsed by the court.

“On June 30, he submitted another application for renewal of his taxi driver’s licence. His convictions were listed and the accompanying driving licence showed the endorsement of five penalty points. On examination by the police, it was noticed he had submitted a different driving licence counterpart to the one he had originally submitted the previous week.

“Between June 31 and July 1, police confirmed no appeal had been lodged with the court.”

Inspector Scott said that when police spoke to Mr Forbes on July 1, he said he had “got in a bit of muddle” and admitted he was in possession of more than one driving licence. He was advised to contact the DVLA immediately.

On July 4, the DVLA confirmed it had revoked Mr Forbes’ driving licence at midnight on July 3 as he had failed to surrender it when requested for endorsement.

It further confirmed the endorsed licence presented to SBC on June 30 was not valid as it had previously been reported as lost/stolen. SBC’s licensing department informed Mr Forbes his driving licence had been revoked and his taxi driver’s licence was suspended pending last Friday’s hearing.

Inspector Scott said the police believed Mr Forbes had attempted to deceive officers of SBC and the police by submitting an unendorsed driving licence in the full knowledge he had an additional driving licence which had been endorsed just 21 days previously and had been “untruthful” in telling police he had lodged an appeal.

“It is also the opinion of police that by driving a taxi at such an excessive speed, Mr Forbes demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the law and other road users.”

Despite Mr Forbes maintaining that he had been “muddled” in relation to the two driving licences, the committee rejected his renewal bid.

A council spokesperson said that Mr Forbes had verbally indicated he intended appealing the decision – he has 28 days from the hearing to do so – at the sheriff court.

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

Private Hire Driver admits to two sex assaults

Bee-Line … not aware of driver’s past

A SCARBOROUGH Private Hire driver was sentenced yesterday for sexually assaulting two female passengers.

Michael Fletcher, 40, of Trafalgar Square, was handed a six-month jail sentence – but walked free from York Crown Court because of time he had already spent in custody.

Judge Michael Mettyear said: “These women thought they were safe getting in to a taxi.

“Women should be able to get in to a taxi without feeling someone is going to take advantage of them while they on their own.

“You were in a position of trust.”

The court heard that Fletcher, who was working for Scarborough-based Bee-line Radio Cars at the time, sexually assaulted his first victim, a woman in her early 20s, on April 6 last year.

Fletcher had initially denied the two charges of sexual assault, but changed his pleas to guilty on the day his trial was due to begin.

Tony Kelbrick, prosecuting, said: “The woman decided to get a taxi back from work.

“She went to get in the car and the defendant said ‘what do you think of my sexy car?’

“During the journey he was very chatty which she found rather strange.”

Fletcher said to the woman: “I bet you are very experienced. I bet you have been with lots of boys.”

He then asked the woman if she was seeing anyone, to which she replied ‘Yes’.

The driver then patted her on her leg before pulling up just short of her home, and asked the woman to go for a drink with him. She refused his offer.

Fletcher then said: “I know you are seeing someone but what’s to stop us being friends? You deserve to be taken out by me.”

He then asked for the woman’s phone number, gave her his card and said she would not be allowed out of the car until she promised to call him.

He then tried to kiss the victim after putting his arm over the woman’s shoulders, and said: “You have very lovely hair and eyes.”

The woman got out of the car and reported the incident to the police.

Three days later, Fletcher assaulted his second victim, a woman in her 40s, who he picked up from her workplace in Scarborough.

Mr Kelbrick said: “He was talking to her about his teeth, which she thought was odd. He continued to touch her leg and at one point grabbed hold of her knee.”

Fletcher dropped the woman off at her home, and she went inside to get money to pay the fare.

When she returned and got back in the car, Fletcher asked if anyone was inside the home. When the woman said no he replied: “Are you going to invite me in for coffee?” and blocked her from getting out of the cab.

He then grabbed her neck and tried to kiss the woman. When the woman swore at Fletcher and said “what are you doing?” he said “alright” and she left.

The court heard that Fletcher had convictions for burglary in 1988, battery in 2003, 2005 and 2006 and a conviction for assault occasioning actual bodily harm in 2004.

Glen Parsons, mitigating, said that his client’s personality had changed after he was injured in a car accident in 2002.

He said Fletcher had had to re-learn what constituted appropriate behaviour and normal social parameters.

Judge Mettyear added: “What you did was unacceptable. You tried to come on to these women and tried to make yourself attractive to them. They did not find you attractive in any way.

“It was awful for these women to go to the safety of a taxi and for this to happen, but these were not the worst sexual offences.”

A Sexual Offences Protection Order, prohibiting Fletcher from driving taxis or cabs containing female passengers for five years, was also put in place.

STORY EXTRA: Carolyn Conlon, owner of Bee-line Radio Cars, said the company had been unaware of Fletcher’s criminal record and that he had been sacked by the firm as soon as he was arrested.

Fletcher was granted a licence by Scarborough Council three years after he was given a suspended jail sentence for assault.

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