Transport chiefs tell Uber drivers they must apply for new criminal record checks

Transport chiefs have told Uber drivers they must apply for new criminal record checks. Regulators have rejected the taxi giants current vetting process and are writing to 13,000 minicab drivers telling them their background checks are no longer valid. Up to a tenth of the company’s workforce now has 28 days to make new applications for vetting or risk being struck off. Some of the drivers work for other companies but Uber is responsible for the largest majority of people.

A spokesman for Uber said: ‘Every private hire driver in London has been through the same Enhanced DBS background check that black cab drivers go through. ‘These background checks are all carried out by the government’s Disclosure and Barring Service. ‘Uber does not process the background checks, does not require potential drivers to use a specific provider, and does not have a say in who gets licensed. ‘It is ultimately up to the regulator (TfL in London) to review the application and DBS check and decide who is granted a licence.’

Last month police accused the firm of failing to report crimes on passengers with figures showing sex attack claims involving Uber drivers are up 50 per cent in a year in the capital. The Sunday Times reported officers were concerned the US company was ‘allowing situations to develop that clearly affect the safety and security of the public’.

Last week it was revealed the man arrested and charged with a terror related incident at Buckingham Palace worked for Uber. Mohiussunnath Chowdhury allegedly attacked three police officers with a samurai sword while shouting ‘Allahu akbar’. And in December 2015 a former Uber driver, Muhiddin Mire, tried to behead a stranger in a London Tube station, yelling: ‘This is for my Syrian brothers.’

All would-be minicab drivers in London must be checked against information held by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), a government agency, for criminal records, unsuitability to work with children or police warnings. TfL accepted these certificates until this year. However, it said this weekend that ‘following a recent review of policy’ it would no longer accept them from Onfido or any other ‘third-party provider’ but only its own contractor. TfL declined to describe its concerns about Onfido and other providers.

The company which runs using an app allows customers to book a taxi anywhere – meaning councils are powerless to regulate the company. Currently local taxi businesses are licensed by local authorities but the new technology firm operates across borders. Police figures show sex attack claims involving Uber drivers are up 50 per cent in a year in the capital.

Between February 2015 and February 2016, there were 32 claims made against the firm’s drivers in London. But in the past 12 months to February 2017, that figure shot up to 48 alleged attacks.

The Local Government Association (LGA), the body representing councils in England and Wales, said laws dating back to 1847 needed updating to protect passengers and create a level field. The LGA has urged the Government to support legislation to modernise the licensing system. It wants national minimum licensing standards for drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles, a national database of all licensed taxi and private hire vehicles drivers, and cross border hiring.

Councils cannot take enforcement action against the rising numbers of taxi drivers licensed by other authorities operating in their area, the LGA claimed.

Uber has been accused of failing passengers by not reporting sex attacks to the police in a letter from Scotland Yard. It argued while local mini cab companies and black cabs have to adhere to the rules, Uber and other firms from outside licensing areas escape scrutiny despite operating on the same roads. There are also concerns drivers who have been refused or had a licence revoked by one authority were able to be licensed by another authority.

Earlier this month, the Daily Mail reported that according to police, Uber had not been reporting sex attacks by its drivers. The firm was accused of putting passenger safety at risk by failing to inform officers of ‘serious crimes’ in a formal letter from Scotland Yard. The alleged offences included at least six sex attacks and an assault. In one case, the firm was alerted to a sexual assault on a woman by a driver but took no action after he denied it. The driver was only blocked from working after he committed a more serious attack on a second woman.

During the Rotherham child sex grooming scandal, a ‘common thread’ emerged that taxi drivers would pick the children up for sex from care homes and schools. The Mail also revealed earlier this year how David Cameron and George Osborne allegedly told aides to lobby Boris Johnson against curbs on Uber. When Mr Johnson was mayor of London in September 2015 he threatened to curtail the activities of the smartphone app.

Taxi driver who grabbed woman between legs faces jail

A TAXI driver from Leamington who grabbed a woman between her legs when she got out of his cab following a row about the fare has been warned to expect an immediate prison sentence. Balvinder Singh had denied sexually assaulting the woman after driving her home, claiming ‘it just did not happen’ a jury was told. But the jury at Warwick Crown Court took just two hours to find the 56 year-old of Tachbrook Road, guilty by a unanimous verdict.

Adjourning for a pre-sentence report, Judge Barry Berlin warned that a taxi driver convicted of breach of trust by a sexual offence against a passenger ‘ought to go immediately to custody.’ Prosecutor Tariq Shakoor said that in the early hours of Sunday January 17 last year a woman in her 50s made a complaint to the police that she had been sexually assaulted by a taxi driver. “The defendant’s case is that he was the taxi driver during this incident, but that no sexual assault took place.”

Mr Shakoor said the woman had been out for the night, socialising with friends in Coventry city centre, and had visited a number of pubs, ‘having a normal Saturday night out.’ At about 2.30 in the morning a friend she was with, but who lived in a different part of the city to her, left to go home. “She stays on, and eventually she too decides it’s time to go home. She leaves a public house and flags down a black cab close-by. There is no dispute the defendant is the driver.”

The woman shared the cab with a male friend who was dropped off first before continuing to her home. But when they arrived there was a dispute over the fare, which was higher than she thought it should be, which Singh said was because of waiting time while they dropped off her friend. The woman became abusive, and called the police to complain about being overcharged – but although the operator told her it was a civil matter, the line remained open and recorded the exchange, which ended with her paying Singh £10.

She complained she could not get out, so Singh got out to open the door, and when she got out he then grabbed hold of her. “He put his hand between her legs, over her clothing, in the area of her private parts. She couldn’t believe what he’d done,” said Mr Shakoor. “If you are sure that is what he did, that is a sexual assault. His case is that it just did not happen,” he explained.

He said during the incident the woman heard someone shout out, which caused Singh to let go, and he got back into the taxi and drove off – and she went inside and, ‘quite distraught,’ called the police again. The jury heard a woman who lived in the same street happened to be awake and could hear the argument over the fare, so got out of bed and looked out of the window. “She describes seeing the driver grabbing the female around the area of her waist and holding her in what she described as a bear hug, pulling her towards him. “It appeared as if he was trying to kiss her. She alerts her partner who gets out of bed and shouts out of the window.”

Following the incident, Singh was traced and arrested, but denied the offence, added Mr Shakoor. In court, Singh said he had kept his foot on the brake during the argument over the fare to keep the door locked so the woman could not make off without paying.

But he said it was then she who hugged him, apologising for the argument over the fare, so he had hugged her back. “She said she liked me. I said ‘no, I’m married, and I moved her with two hands, pushing outwards to her shoulders, and then got back into the taxi and drove away.” He denied touching her between the legs, and accused her of making it all up to get him into trouble.

After the jury returned its verdict, at the request of his barrister Jonathan Veasey-Pugh, Judge Berlin agreed to adjourn for a pre-sentence report to be prepared on Singh. But he commented: “He must realise this is a serious matter for which an immediate custodial sentence is highly likely, particularly in view of what is a breach of trust.” Singh was granted bail, but Judge Berlin warned him: “That must not in your mind mean that there is not going to be an immediate custodial sentence. “I take the view that a taxi driver who is convicted of breach of trust by a sexual offence committed against a passenger ought to go immediately to custody.”

Private Hire driver loses licence for ‘intimidating’ women

A private hire driver has been stripped of his licence for intimidating women.

In one incident he confronted an elderly passenger at her home at night after her daughter had complained about his attitude towards her mother.

The complaint centred on his refusal to help the elderly woman when dropping her off after a journey. He was also accused of requesting a tip from her.

In a separate incident, he used his vehicle to block access to another woman in her own car.

She was trapped for ten minutes and subsequently complained to the firm he worked for, saying she had felt “intimidated” by his behaviour.

All three incidents happened in April this year.

The driver, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had previously been issued with a final written warning by East Riding Council over his conduct towards passengers.

That had been triggered by two complaints in the space of five months about his behaviour.

The first, in December last year, involved claims of “abusive conduct” towards a young female passenger who he followed down a cul-de-sac after dropping her off.

In March, a male passenger alleged the driver had asked him to sell him some drugs although this was subsequently denied.

He was issued with a final written warning on April 7 – the same day as he was alleged to have asked for a tip after refusing to help the elderly passenger who he later confronted at her home.

The decision by the council’s licensing committee to revoke his licence with immediate effect has been revealed in newly published minutes.

The minutes say: “At a meeting with officers on April 28, the appellant failed to see the importance of these complaints and how his actions were not appropriate and how they may have impacted on vulnerable customers and caused them alarm.

“The appellant is not promoting the aims of the licensing policy and his conduct is not that which is expected of a licensed driver, particularly relating to his unacceptable conduct towards a vulnerable adult by visiting her uninvited at her home address.”

The committee was told the man, who had been a licensed driver for over 11 years, was not currently working as a taxi driver having had his licence suspended on April 27.

The minutes reveal some councillors favoured a three-month suspension of his licence but they were out-voted by a majority who supported an immediate revocation.

Taxi driver accused of ‘sitting outside swimming pool in pants’ loses licence appeal

A Labour councillor was accused of ‘sitting outside a swimming pool in his pants’ as he lost an appeal after being refused of a taxi licence.

Oadby and Wigston Borough Council denied an application made by Gurpal Atwal in late 2016 and this decision was backed by magistrates in Loughborough yesterday.

This was after a committee in January 2017 decided he was “not fit and proper” to undertake the position of a cab driver.

The body rejected the private hire and Hackney carriage licence application despite Mr Atwal passing a DBS check and other relevant driving checks.

Outlining the council’s position, its legal representative Dave Gill said: “In essence there were a number of allegations.

“From 2015 there were a consistent number of complaints. No charges, but alleged offences and contact with police.

“The council’s single sole duty is to protect the public.”

Following his statement the officer from the council who led the committee’s enquiries took to the stand.

Licensing Enforcement Officer for Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, Tracey Aldwinckle, 49, explained the statements she had gathered – from which varying accusations emerged.

While being questioned by Mr Atwal’s defence, she said: “I was told your client is using unlicensed drivers on school runs and then he sat in his pants outside a swimming pool because he believes that’s acceptable.”

As well as this a raft of further alleged misdemeanours were stated to the court – most of which had stemmed from 2015 up until now.

There were also claims of racism and an allegation Mr Atwal “swore at” a man.

However he said that when this was followed up officers chose to take no further action.

Mr Atwal’s defence solicitor Anthony Schiller said there was “no indication” from any member of the travelling public of aggressive or racist behaviour.

He also described how his client has worked for over 20 years as a taxi driver in Leicester.

He stated that the majority of witnesses spoken to by Ms Aldwinckle had connections to Mr Atwal’s former business partner.

Mr Atwal owned a fifty-per-cent stake in Handsome Cars in Leicester and is taking his former business partner to high court in regards to a sum of around £300,000.

Mr Atwal still has a taxi licence in Leicester

Addressing magistrates Mr Schiller said: “We know there are links to people you have not seen today.

“It’s often said a business dispute can be worse than a divorce.

“You have to use the mythical scales of justice to make the decision.”

Mr Atwal also denied the accusations in court – stating they were “all fabricated”.

When questioned in front of magistrates Mr Atwal said: “I am not a racist person. I treat everybody fairly.
“They [the statements] were all fabricated to discredit my character.”

In regards to the business dispute Mr Gill commented that it was believed Mr Atwal had involved “heavies” when things did not go his way.

Mr Atwal did not comment following the hearing.

As well as not being granted a licence Mr Atwal was also charged £1,250 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing Bill Boulter, 70, who chaired the Oadby and Wigston Borough Council licensing panel which made the original decision said he was “very pleased”.

Mr Atwal currently holds a licence allowing him to drive cabs in Leicester until 2018.

 

source: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/local-news/taxi-driver-accused-sitting-outside-218270

Glasgow private-hire driver sacked after ‘locking terrified female passenger in car and demanding extra cash’

The private-hire was dismissed from City Cars after footage of the frightening ordeal was posted on Facebook

A GLASGOW private-hire driver has been sacked following reports he locked a female passenger in his car and demanded extra cash.

The private-hire driver was dismissed from City Cars after footage of the terrifying ordeal was posted on Facebook.

In the clip, the young female, who does not wish to be named, booked a private-hire car in advance from Clydebank to Neilston on Saturday night, agreeing a charge of £20.

She can heard getting more impatient with the driver who she is trying to give directions to and is heard saying to him: “Yeah, you’re back that way.”

Trying to justify the increased fare, the driver replies to her: “My friend, 17 miles I drive.”

At this point the operator, who is also heard becoming increasingly impatient states: “It is not 17 miles, that’s what I’m saying to you, it is 14 miles.

“So if you take her a long way you can’t charge the lady for that.”

Throughout the video, all that can be seen are the passenger’s legs and the back seat of private-hire car in the darkness.

The driver can be heard stopping the car and demanding she pay him upfront as she pleads with him to “go”.

The pair can be heard shouting at each other to the point where the operator tells the driver to stop arguing and take the passenger home.

Even then, the driver threatens to call the police.

Thankfully, the driver eventually took the passenger home and charged £20.

The young female posted the mobile phone video of the frightening exchange as a warning to other passengers.

City Cars today confirmed the incident had happened and said the driver had been dismissed.

A spokesperson said: “City Cars Management were shocked at hearing of the driver’s actions on Saturday night.

“We dealt with the incident immediately upon hearing the complaint and the driver no longer works for the company.

“We have reported him to Glasgow City Council and have advised the customer to do so also.

“At the time of the incident the driver was reminded by our Operator of City Cars’ zero tolerance policy of never allowing over charging but took it upon himself to attempt to violate this.

“City Cars do not in any way condone the actions of the driver in this isolated incident.

“We have spoken to the customer and extended our apologies and assurances that this will never happen again.”

TfL English Test Introduction delayed until 2018

The chauffeur reports that the Court of Appeal is to begin discussing the controversial Transport for London English Tests for Private Hire drivers.

A campaign by the Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) and the GMB Union has been successful in its early stages as TfL announces it has delayed the introduction of the tests until April 2018.

A spokesperson from the LPHCA commented; “Like many other interested groups, including representatives of disabled drivers, we wholly reject the current test levels set by Transport for London as arbitrary and excessive. The test itself, we maintain, is simply not fit for purpose.

“It imposes unnecessary costs and time consuming burdens. This is potentially, in our opinion, discriminatory, unreasonable and disproportionate. Comparatively, we note, other Transport for London regulated modes of transport are not subject to undertaking such obligations.”

President of the GMB Professional Drivers’ arm, Simon Rush commented; “There’s an uneasy feeling of uncertainty of where we stand as private hire drivers, and at the moment we need more support than ever to make sure we keep our jobs. This plan needs to be abandoned and started again with a new proposal to include grandfather rights for current drivers and an oral test for new drivers.

He added; “The Mayor needs to come back with a more straightforward and less expensive test and plan that will be acceptable to our members.

“It’s time for the London Mayor to get involved and deal with this increasing mess.”

A protest outside City Hall in December 2016 saw members of the trade displaying placards, banners and flags outlining the issues and then entering the building to fill up the Assembly Chamber to protest against the tests.

The English Test would require those applying for a Private Hire license to undergo an English language test to prove their abilities and submit the qualification to TfL. Drivers would be allowed to provide a copy of previously obtained exam certificate demonstrating English language proficiency.

If they can’t locate one, a driver would need to contact their exam board to obtain a copy or, if their exam board no longer exists, they would need to commence a likely minimum eight-week process to try and get hold of a copy from the AQA.

source: http://www.thechauffeur.com/

Cabbie fined after he refused to pick up blind man and his guide dog

A cruel cabbie who refused to pick up a blind man and his guide dog has been hit with a £600 fine.

Taiwo Osazuwa was called to pick up the disabled man from Asda in Eastlands , but wouldn’t let the dog in his car when he arrived.

The Hackney carriage driver was hauled before the courts after being charged with breaking laws under the Equality Act, which specifically require taxi and private hire drivers to carry guide and other assistant dogs.

Osazuwa, 59, knew the man had a guide dog before he arrived at the Asda store after his operator sent him to the job on June 3.

The man subsequently called another taxi firm and he and his dog were picked up without incident.

Osazuwa pleaded not guilty to breaking equality laws at Manchester Magistrates’ Court.

He found guilty and ordered to pay a £65 fine, £500 costs and a victim surcharge of £35.

Osazuwa holds a Hackney carriage licence with Rossendale council, but was working for a Manchester private hire firm at the time of the incident.

Town hall bosses in Lancashire will now call him to a hearing to see if he is worthy of keeping his Hackney carriage driver licence.

Manchester council’s neighbourhoods chief Nigel Murphy said: “We expect the highest standards from all taxi and private hire drivers operating in Manchester and will not tolerate anything less that exemplary behaviour.

“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.

“Unfortunately this problem often goes unreported, so I’d ask that anyone who has faced a similar issue to report it to us.”

source: http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/cabbie-fined-after-refused-pick-12691870

Uber drivers refused to take man with guide dog 14 times

A partially-sighted man says he has repeatedly been refused taxis operated by private hire firm Uber because he travels with a guide dog.

Saleh Ahmed, from Balsall Heath, Birmingham, gets a cab to New Street Station every day on his way to work in Worcester.

He said he had been left feeling humiliated by the rejections.

Taxis are obliged to take people with guide dogs. Uber said it had barred the drivers involved.

Mr Ahmed said the latest refusals happened on Monday.

“I gave the driver a ring and explained I have a guide dog,” he said.

“He instantly cancelled the ride and I was charged a cancellation fee.

“I was refused four times by Uber that night. One of the drivers did turn up, but drove off when he saw the dog.

“It’s really disappointing. This has happened to me at least 14 times. It makes me feels humiliated.

“It stresses me out just to know that I can’t book a taxi like everybody else does to get from A to B.”

Uber said it was “totally unacceptable” for drivers to refuse to take a guide dog.

“Licensed private hire drivers must carry service animals in their vehicle and we remind all drivers of this legal obligation before they start using the Uber app,” it said in a statement.

“Any driver who is found to have refused to take a service animal will permanently lose access to the Uber app and risks having their private hire licence taken away.

“The two drivers complained about by Mr Ahmed have been barred from using the app and won’t be allowed back if the complaint is upheld.”

source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-39151232

Minicab driver fined for refusing to pick up 71-year-old blind woman and guide dog

A minicab driver who refused to pick up a blind 71-year-old woman and her guide dog, leaving them stranded, has been fined.

Samim Yakubi was worried the dog would urinate or leave hairs in his car after he arrived to pick them up in Wolverhampton on October 4 last year.

The 40-year-old was working for Wednesfield Radio Cars as a private hire driver when the incident happened. The company had already been told that Rita Nicholls would be travelling with her dog Charlie when Yakubi was dispatched.

Magistrates fined Yakubi £80 and ordered him to pay costs of £400 and a victim surcharge of £30 after he pleaded guilty to breaching the Equality Act.

City of Wolverhampton Council said Yakubi went to the arranged pick-up location in the city’s Market Street but when he realised the customer had a dog he said there had been a mistake and left without them.

Yakubi was interviewed under caution by council officers. He then admitted he had lied to Nicholls, saying the actual reason he left was because he was worried the dog would urinate in his car and leave hair inside.

Steve Evans, from the council, said: “This was discrimination, plain and simple.

“I find it despicable that a private hire driver, who is there to provide a service to everyone, would abandon a blind passenger because he didn’t want a guide dog in his car.

“Yakubi knew he was breaking the law, all drivers undergo disability awareness training, but he went ahead and did it anyway, motivated by purely selfish reasons.”

Read more at http://talkradio.co.uk/

Glasgow PH driver loses appeal against licence ban after allegedly assaulting passenger

A private hire driver’s attempt to regain his private hire licence was quashed after he was suspended for allegedly assaulting one of his passengers.

Daniel Hughes appealed the decision made by Glasgow City Council’s licensing board to immediately suspend his licence after police made the committee aware of the alleged incident which took place on New Year’s Day.

The 56-year-old denied the charge against him at the licensing board.

However members decided to uphold their original decision.

Mr Hughes was charged for allegedly assaulting a man on New Year’s Day after the passenger was sick in his car at about 2am on January 1.

The police report of the incident said that the male passenger, who was accompanied by two female passengers, became unwell and was sick into his hands.

But some of the sick fell on the car’s interior.

Mr Hughes then shouted at the male and demanded that he pay £50 to cover the clean-up cost.

The sick passenger offered to clean the mess but Mr Hughes refused.

The report goes on to say the car was stopped after the passenger refused to pay the cost of cleaning the car and then got out – saying to the people he was with that he still felt unwell.

It was then Mr Hughes allegedly got out of the car, pushed the passenger over and kneeled on the passenger’s chest and punched him on the face.

Then, after other passengers restrained him, he went back to his car, retrieved a metal flask and allegedly struck the sick passenger to the left side of his face.

After the incident Mr Hughes drove away from the scene.

The male passenger attended hospital the following day where he was informed he had suffered from concussion as a result of the incident.

After a police investigation, Mr Hughes was charged with assault.

Although he has been charged, he has not been convicted with the case still to go before the courts.

The committee voted by five to two to suspend his licence for the time he had left on his three year licence.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “The Licensing Committee has a responsibility to ensure the safety of passengers using licensed vehicles.”

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