No decisions have been made yet about whether to introduce CCTV cameras into taxis and private hire cars in Sheffield.
Last month Sheffield City Council’s Licensing Committee announced it was reviewing whether to make the cameras mandatory following a serious attack on a Sheffield taxi driver.
City Taxis’ driver Arshad Mahmood lost his eye after being hit in the face with a glass bottle by a passenger who had been told he wasn’t allowed to drink alcohol in the cab.
Back in 2007 the council invested £7,000 in fitting CCTV cameras into 30 taxis as part of a pilot project. It was claimed the measure cut the number of incidents drivers faced from one for every seven journeys to one incident for every 100. However the council was not convinced cameras should become compulsory.
If the Licensing Committee now changes its policy and makes them mandatory it is not clear who will pay for their installation.
Drivers and taxi companies may be expected to pay for the cameras as part of the condition of their license, or the council might pick up the cost, as it did in 2007.
Back then the trial cost an average of £212 per taxi. However modern CCTV systems, specially designed for taxis, can retail at nearly three times as much.
Even if the lower 2007 figure is used, this means a bill of £468,000, given there are 857 Hackney carriages licensed in the city and a further 1352 private hire vehicles.
But some people are opposed to the idea of putting CCTV cameras in cabs in principle.
Civil liberties campaigners have strong reservations about how the information recorded is stored and used. James Baker, campaigns manager for the Sheffield branch of the campaign group ‘NO2ID’, said:
“Recording and storing everything we say or do in the back of a late night taxi sound like something a creepy stalker would do. Clearly most people would find this an invasion of their privacy.”
“Clearly only incidents of crime should be retained on any proposed system” he added.
A council spokesman said: “Members will be making decisions on the way forward based on the information pulled together by officers in the coming weeks.”
CAMERAS could be installed in Sheffield taxis to improve safety after an ‘appalling’ attack which left a driver blinded in one eye.
Sheffield Council says it will reconsider mandatory CCTV in its 857 Hackney cabs – a move council chiefs say has come about following the attack on Arshad Mahmood, who was hit in the face with a glass bottle.
The dad-of-three – who had simply asked his attacker not to drink alcohol in the vehicle – has lost the sight in his right eye.
Today Mr Mahmood’s family and taxi drivers welcomed the idea of cameras in Sheffield cabs – an initiative which could be rolled out to private hire vehicles if approved.
His wife Arsheed Mahmood told The Star: “Taxi drivers are there to take people home, not to suffer abuse.
“I think this would be a good idea because you would be able to catch people more easily and it might stop people doing things like this.
“It should have happened a long time ago but it is a good thing the council is talking about doing something about it and taking us seriously.”
Arshad, 40, was working as a private hire driver for City Taxis at the time of the unprovoked incident on Fox Hill Road.
He is now back home in Nether Edge but will need further surgery.
Arsheed added: “I have not been able to sleep properly, and now that Arshad has come home for a couple of weeks we’re trying to get back to normal.
“But we have to understand that things will never be back to normal.”
The council’s licensing committee is to look again at putting cameras in Hackney cabs, with the earliest date for a meeting in September, to prevent or reduce serious assaults.
Consultations will be held with taxi trade representatives.
Coun John Robson, chairman of the licensing committee, said: “In 2007 the licensing committee looked into the mandatory provision of CCTV cameras in taxis, but at that time was not convinced of their necessity.
“In view of this appalling attack we will now re-examine that decision.
“If we decide to make CCTV mandatory in all Hackney carriages we will look at ways to roll out the scheme further to ensure the safety of other taxi drivers and passengers.
“No decision has been made – it is likely to be legally complex – but we will look into the issue.”
Taxi drivers said verbal, and sometimes physical, attacks were common as was the problem of people running away without paying.
Driver Ajaz Ahmed said: “I think cameras are a great idea. A few years ago they started to put some in.
“The way things are these days, it’s getting worse and worse with 24-hour pubbing and clubbing.
“We’re are getting more abuse from people, especially when they’re drunk.
“I would welcome it – anything for safety of the drivers and passengers.”
Around 40 cabs have been fitted with CCTV as part of a huge safety push for taxi and private hire vehicle drivers.
This week Balal Shah of A1 Cars in Mill Street, Bedford, handed out the cameras to drivers working late shifts as protection is stepped up following the death of cabbie Mehar Dhariwal.
Nintety cameras were donated to drivers around the borough by PoliceWitness.com – a free public service that liaises directly with the police – after Mr Dhariwal was killed in January.
At last week’s meeting of Bedfordshire on Sunday’s Cabbie and Passenger Safety (CaPS) campaign, Bedford Borough Council’s head of registration and records, Keith Simmons, admitted he wouldn’t drive a cab without CCTV in it.
Mr Shah, who says the introductions of the cameras are to protect both drivers and passengers, said: “We gave the cameras as a priority to those who work the late shift as it those who are more at risk.
“This is the start of a long-term plan to change the image of the trade to view as a more professional business.
“It’s not something that will happen overnight.
“The cameras act as a deterrent and most definitely they can save lives. It must not be forgotten it is to aid both drivers and passengers – it’s a two way partnership.” In comparison at the other end of the X5 route in Oxford cabbies have been protesting AGAINST the use of CCTV in their vehicles claiming it infringes their civil liberties. Oxford City Council has made it compulsory for all their cabs to have CCTV by April 2015.
It is believed it will cost £260,000 to fit 665 of the vehicles with the equipment.
TWO taxi drivers have been injured in robberies which police say are linked.
Both of the drivers – a 55-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man suffered slash and stab injuries in the violent assaults in Grimsby in the early hours of yesterday.
Today, Detective Inspector Kevin Foster, of Humberside Police, who is leading the investigation, confirmed that officers were linking the two attacks, and four men had been arrested.
He said they were “nasty” robberies on drivers who were going about their normal business.
The first happened at 4.24am near the junction of Farebrother Street and Garner Street in Grimsby, where a woman taxi driver picked up two men.
In the taxi cab they threatened the woman and assaulted her, taking possessions including cash, a mobile phone and documents.
She suffered cuts to her hands.
The two men jumped out of the cab and ran off, and were seen jumping over a wall on Ellis Way.
One was wearing a black hooded top and the other was in a grey hooded top.
Nearly two hours later, at 6.15am, a taxi driver was robbed after picking up a fare from Cable Cars taxi office in Pasture Street.
The sole passenger was driven to near the area of Patrick Street, Peaksfield Avenue and Highfield Avenue.
Det Insp Foster said the driver suffered “a nasty assault” and sustained injuries to his upper torso and face with a weapon.
The suspect was described as a white man aged in his 20s, of slim build and about 5ft 8 ins tall.
He was wearing a grey hooded top and grey trousers.
The taxi driver was taken to the Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital where he was treated.
Det Insp Foster said both the victims were traumatised by their ordeals, and appealed for witnesses to come forward with information.
The men arrested in connection with the assaults remain in custody at Grimsby police station.
The senior detective said: “These were two robberies on two taxi drivers in the early hours of yesterday.
“They were two unprovoked robberies. The drivers have been traumatised by the incidents.
“Although they are two separate incidents they are possibly linked because the descriptions of a man in a grey top are close.
“These are two people trying to earn a living and coming to an end of their shifts at the end of a long day and going about their lawful business and were set upon by these people.”
“Drivers have to be vigilant. They are advised not to pick up large groups of males. “They have to make their own judgements and they will advise each other about locations where there have been previous incidents.
“Drivers are quite well versed about where it is not safe to take certain people.”
The officer said he was not linking the latest two incidents with any other attacks on taxi drivers earlier this year.
Detectives are continuing to speak to the victims and contacting witnesses and studying CCTV footage from the areas where the drivers and suspects were.
Chairman of North East Lincolnshire Hackney Carriage Association, David Atkin said: “We are conscious of the possibility of it (assault) every time we get someone getting into a cab. It is something everyone is aware of.
“You choose to work with the public and you are vulnerable and there is not a lot you can do about it.
“Even in a cab where there is a bulk head between the driver and a passenger, there is still a danger.”
The spokesman said there is a support network between all drivers and if anyone radioed for help, other drivers would attend as soon as possible.
He said: “We reassure one another there is back up and you might get lucky and have a driver just around the corner.”
He said some drivers decline to work at nights for fear of assaults, and added there were a number of women taxi drivers working in North East Lincolnshire.
Mr Atkin said: “It is an indictment on society as it has deteriorated that people are exposed to this more than they should be.”
He said drivers retain the right not to carry specified passengers.
Man charged with robbing two taxi drivers in Grimsby
ONE man has been charged with two counts of robbery following attacks on taxi drivers in the early hours of Sunday.
As reported, a 55-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man were injured in two separate attacks – the woman at 4.24am near the junction of Farebrother Street and Garner Street in Grimsby and the man at 6.15am in the Patrick Street area of the town.
A 65-year-old man was attacked in the Patrick Street area of Grimsby.
The woman suffered injuries to her hands and had cash, a mobile phone and documents stolen.
The man suffered injuries to his upper torso and face.
He received treatment at Grimsby’s Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital and was discharged later on Sunday.
As reported on yesterday’s front page, four men were initially arrested.
Police said two were yesterday released on police bail pending further inquiries and one was released unconditionally.
A 24-year-old local man was last night charged with robbery in connection with both incidents.
He was due to appear before Grimsby Magistrates’ Court today.
TAXI firm owner has been told to install cameras in all of his cars to cut down on fraudulent whiplash claims.
Andrew Tindall, who owns Belmont Taxis and fleet hire company Hull Cab Hire, was told by his insurance company to fit high-definition CCTV in his 95-strong fleet.
His company paid out £40,000 in personal injury claims following accidents last year, £30,000 of which were for whiplash.
His insurance policy has now risen by 70 per cent.
Mr Tindall said: “Last year was terrible and it was all down to minor injury claims.
“We have had such a massive hit, especially on whiplash claims, some of which we believe are fraudulent.
“It is about time people started standing up against these fake claims.”
The Government yesterday held a summit to discuss “weeding out” the “compensation culture”.
In one case, Mr Tindall’s insurer Westminster paid £10,000 compensation following an accident that caused £100 of damage to the car.
Mr Tindall believes his firm will be the first taxi company in Hull to use the cameras, which record the vehicle’s speed and direction, the date and time, and images of the driver and any passengers.
They will also record footage from inside the cars, which can be used if drivers are assaulted.
Mr Tindall said: “With the evidence they record, it should cut out fraudulent claims, which we believe was the main result of our policy increase.”
Charles Reilly, of Westminster Insurance, said: “The aim of the cameras is to assist in the protection of our insured against fraudulent claims and will hopefully allow us to obtain accurate details of an event.
“We have also included inward- facing cameras as frequently there are situations where the driver is either attacked, or passengers try to leave the moving vehicle in an effort to avoid paying the fare.
“Our limited use of cameras to date has proved very successful in the reduction of claims costs and the hope is that in the future this will allow us to provide discounts on premiums if cameras are fitted.”
OXFORD City Council has been told to justify its plan for recording conversations in taxis in a move that may take the controversial scheme closer to being ruled a breach of privacy.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has served a preliminary enforcement notice on the council over its plans to make all Hackney cabs and private hire taxis it licenses install a sound and video recording system.
The ICO says the compulsory scheme may not comply with the Data Protection Act and has asked the council to submit a written response proving otherwise.
If the commissioner’s office is not satisfied with the council’s response, it can issue an enforcement notice, demanding that the plan is scrapped.
Failure to comply is a criminal offence.
The council wants all new cabs to have the £460 cameras, with the existing 665 vehicles fitted by April 2015.
It has offered to pay £100 towards the cost of each recording system.
The council argues cameras will protect drivers from assaults and allegations by passengers.
It says footage would only be reviewed on request.
The watchdog contacted the council after the Oxford Mail reported on the proposals in November last year.
The ICO’s CCTV code of practice says: “CCTV must not be used to record conversations between members of the public, as this is highly intrusive.”
The scheme was due to start on April 1 but was put on hold by the council because of the watchdog’s intervention.
ICO spokesman Greg Jones said: “The notice relates to our concerns that the scheme may not be compliant with the requirements of the Data Protection Act.”
The Act’s principles include the demand that collection of information should be “not excessive”.
The council has until early next month to respond.
Spokesman Annette [edited by admin] said: “As a public body, it is right that the council should reflect on the concerns expressed. The scheme has been suspended pending that reconsideration.”
Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “It’s time for the plan to be dropped.”
Private hire driver Khalil Ahmed – who collected 273 signatures on a petition against the plan – said: “It’s very positive news.
“We have always argued against the legality of it. It is futile and unnecessary and a waste of ratepayers’ money.”
CCTV cameras would be introduced in black cabs across the Capital under plans being put forward by an organisation representing thousands of city taxi drivers.
The Edinburgh Licensed Taxi Partnership (ELTP) believes the introduction of cameras would cut down incidents ranging from disputes over fares to verbal or physical abuse against drivers.
It plans to put the proposal to the council’s regulatory committee later this year and if approved, black cab drivers across the Capital would be given the option of having the cameras installed in their vehicle.
The cameras – ideally three in each vehicle – would cost each taxi driver around £400, with one located in the driver compartment and two in the passenger compartment.
Les McVay, chair of the ELTP and secretary of City Cabs, believes many of the problems experienced by taxi drivers on a weekly basis would be avoided if CCTV was installed.
The 57-year-old, who has worked as a taxi driver in Edinburgh for 32 years, said: “I have done night shift for 30-odd years and I have had cracked ribs and a broken wrist. You go into all these areas without thought.
“CCTV would help to protect the driver and the public. It would defuse a lot of hotspot situations – if somebody knows they are going to be recorded, they might think twice about taking the incident further.
“We are not trying to force this on anybody, it would just be an option for licence holders.”
The ELTP hopes to have a decision from the council before the end of the year and pointed out that taxi drivers themselves would not be able to view the CCTV footage, which would be passed to a “third party” such as police or the city council. A special code would be required to access the footage, which would be deleted after around 30 days.
The option for CCTV in black cabs has been highlighted in the ELTP’s first manifesto setting out its goals for Edinburgh’s taxi service over the next five years, and sent to all prospective council candidates ahead of next month’s local elections.
Also included is a regular fare review, better regulation of taxi advertising and a review of taxi ranks.
Mr McVay said several cities south of the Border, including London, already had CCTV operating in taxis, and if the proposal was approved by the city council, it was likely there would be an initial pilot project.
Passengers would be made aware that the CCTV was in operation inside the vehicle via a notice.
James Kelly, from Livingston, who has been a taxi driver for more than 20 years, agreed that a CCTV system could be a taxi driver’s “best friend”.
He was assaulted by a would-be passenger last summer after refusing to pick him up in Fountainbridge because he was eating takeaway food.
The 45-year-old said: “He punched me through the window on the side of the face. I had to drive away – if you get out of the taxi, you’re opening yourself up to more confrontation.
“If I had that incident on film, I could have gone to the police.”
Councillor Rob Munn, convener of the regulatory committee and licensing sub-committee, said: “The safety of passengers and drivers is of paramount importance, so the committee will carefully consider any proposal aimed at promoting this.”
The city’s three main black cab firms – City Cabs, Central Radio Taxis and ComCab – formed the ELTP last year to represent the 5000 people in the trade.
A REVIEW of compulsory spy cameras in taxis has been launched by councillors after a judge said the policy was “not lawful” but ruled he couldn’t overturn it.
Taxi boss Kevin May launched a legal challenge after the council three years ago brought in conditions requiring cameras to be fitted to new and replacement taxis and private hire cars.
About 450 of the 1,000 cars in Southampton have the cameras fitted, which record images and all conversations and cannot be switched off by drivers. They cost up to £700 each, of which cabbies have to pay about £300.
The city council insists they are needed for the safety of drivers and passengers.
But Mr May argued the recordings breached his human rights.
He has been backed by privacy watchdogs and the Information Commissioner, who said the capture of the recordings was “excessive and disproportionate, and therefore unfair”.
A crown court judge ruled he had no jurisdiction to overturn the camera policy but added that if he had he would have found it was “not lawful”.
He said the recording of every conversation was “invasive”, “disproportionate” and a “violation” of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, the right to privacy.
Mr May has threatened to go to the High Court for a judicial review if councillors don’t amend the policy.
Councillors are launching a 12- week consultation on the taxicam policy before deciding whether to change it. But they refused to suspend the policy in the meantime at the request of cabbies.
Oxford West MP Nicola Blackwood has written to Oxford City Council urging them to suspend their scheme to install CCTV cameras in all new taxis from April 1st.
She has also written to Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) seeking an update on their investigation into Oxford City Council’s decision.
In November 2011, Southampton Crown Court ruled that the recording of passengers’ conversations by Southampton Council was not necessary.
She said: “It does seem to me that the City Council has crossed the line with this policy, it is an invasion of privacy and undermining of civil liberties that neither passengers nor taxi drivers themselves have welcomed. The ICO has stated to me that recording conversations between taxi passengers is highly intrusive and unlikely to be justified.
“CCTV plays an important role in combating crime and anti-social behaviour but that has to be balanced with privacy concerns and used within common sense limits. I would need to see some very convincing evidence of a significant crime and anti-social behaviour problems in taxis that needs to be tackled by this specific measure in order to be convinced that it can be justified, and that it is in compliance with existing Data Protection legislation.
“The City of Oxford Licensed Taxi Cab Association has now raised serious concerns about the practical operation of these regulations and whilst the ICO’s investigation into this matter is ongoing and I think it would be sensible for the City Council to wait for the ICO’s formal response before implementing such a costly and invasive policy.”
Oxford City Council says the cameras will make things safer for both drivers and passengers.
In a statement, the council said: “There are laws in places (Data Protection, Human Rights, CCTV Code of Practice) that require the viewing of such images to be necessary and proportionate, and therefore must relate to a specific complaint, incident or investigation. The officers are not permitted to view any images that do not relate to the actual matter being investigated. The risk of intrusion into private conversations has to be balanced against the interests of public safety, both of passengers and drivers.”
The council said that as long as clear notices were displayed in vehicles, informing passengers that video and audio recording may be taking place, the risk of intrusion was acceptable compared to the public safety benefits.
It also said the level of privacy that could reasonably be expected in a licensed vehicle was far lower than that expected in the privacy of someone’s home or own car.
The CCTV footage won’t be routinely viewed but will be stored on a hard-drive for 28 days. If an incident is reported, the council said footage from the system may be requested but only footage relevant to the incident will be required.