Driver at city centre taxi rank was three times drink-drive limit

Balwinder Singh

A taxi driver on duty and first in line to pick up passengers at a Wolverhampton city centre rank was three times the drink-drive limit when police spoke to him about ramshackle repairs holding together his cab, a court heard.

Police officers approached Balwinder Singh’s Mercedes Vito while he waited at the front of the rank in Market Street due to concerns over the safety of a sliding door on his cab — being held shut with computer cable. They immediately realised the father-of-two had been drinking.

A breathalyser test found he was almost three times the legal alcohol limit, Mr Roger Bleazard, prosecuting, told Wolverhampton Magistrates Court.

Singh, of Broadstone Close, Goldthorn Park, later refused to supply a second sample and when asked if there was any medical reason he did not wish to provide one he replied: “Only my liver”, the court was told.

Bench chairman Mrs Anne Morgan told 41-year-old Singh adjourned the case so the probation service can prepare a report, but warned him he faces jail. He pleaded guilty to failing to provide a specimen and using a motor vehicle in a condition likely to cause danger yesterday.

Mr Kevin Good, for Singh, said his client was the “major breadwinner” for his family. His wife worked part-time to help support their children, aged five and 15, but the family’s financial circumstances would be “drastically affected” by his disqualification from driving, Mr Good told the court.

The court heard Singh had been parked at the front of a rank in Market Street when police noticed damage to the door of his cab at around 1.10am on February 5.

Mrs Morgan told Singh, who was convicted of drink driving in 2003 and speeding in February 2008 there were many “aggravating features” including his previous convictions.

Singh was granted unconditional bail to appear for sentence on March 10.


Unlicensed Rawtenstall Taxi Driver Fined

A driver who drove his hackney carriage whilst he was suspended from driving taxis has been ordered to pay £265, following a successful prosecution by Rossendale Council.

Mahboob Hussain (30) of North Road, Rawtenstall was observed driving a taxi in the Staghills area of Rossendale in July 2010, despite having his license to drive a taxi suspended earlier that year.

Following a trial at Reedley Magistrates Court, on 1st February 2011, he was convicted of the offence of driving a licensed hackney carriage whilst suspended from driving.

Chair of Licensing at Rossendale Council, Councillor Jimmy Eaton said:

“Public safety is our number one priority. Mr Hussain continued to drive a taxi after we had suspended his license. The court has found him guilty and fined him. This is a positive outcome. Rossendale Council takes a very dim view on unlicensed taxi drivers as the safety of people using taxis is paramount.”


PH Driver to take re-test

A Carlisle private-hire car driver who has twice been caught using a mobile phone at the wheel has been ordered to re-sit the taxi driving test.

Stephen Oliphant, 62, of Aglionby, was first spotted in December 2007 when he was issued with a fixed-penalty notice and three points on his driving licence.

He was caught again in February last year.

On both occasions he failed to notify Carlisle City Council within seven days as he is supposed to.

The offences came to light only when he renewed his taxi licence.

Mr Oliphant appeared before the council’s regulatory panel yesterday.

Councillors decided against revoking or suspending his licence.

But panel chairman David Morton said: “We are asking the licensing manager to issue a stern letter of warning and require you to take the Driving Standards Agency [taxi] test within 26 weeks.

“If you fail to pass your licence will be automatically revoked.”

Mr Oliphant told councillors that his failure to report the offences had been an “oversight”.

He said: “In the first instance I was in a queue of traffic and the phone rang.

“I answered because I knew it was the office. I was spotted and owned up to it. It was a pure oversight not reporting it.

“There were no passengers in the vehicle.

“The last occasion I was in my van, I checked my phone and there was a message. Why I put it to my ear I don’t know because I wasn’t making a call.

“As for not reporting it, I had my wife and mother in hospital and there was a lot going on in my mind. I can assure you this will not happen again.”


Inverness taxi driver gets three-month suspension

Customers had made ‘catalogue’ of complaints to highland council

A Highland taxi driver had his operators licence suspended for three months yesterday after a “catalogue” of complaints from customers.

Four customers complained in just two months about Peter Worsfold, an Inverness taxi driver since 2007.

The Highland Licensing Committee was told that Paul Carpenter got into Mr Worsfold’s cab at about 1pm on August 10 last year and was told by Mr Worsfold that the short journey he requested and which would cost £3.90 was “a ridiculous fare”.

When asked if he wanted the fare, Mr Worsfold said “No, not really”.

Mr Carpenter got out and took another taxi instead and later complained to Highland Council’s trading standards unit.

Just weeks later on September 8, trading standards received a complaint from Hew Morrison who said he was ignored when he tried to engage in conversation with the taxi driver when he got into his cab at about 1.30am on September 5. He also claimed Mr Worsfold threw his change at him when he paid his fare, and nearly ran over his foot by driving off while he was getting out.

Mr Worsfold was interviewed by trading standards officers after both complaints and he was given “corrective advice” and told he would go before the licensing committee if there were any further complaints.

Mr Worsfold said he had no recollection of either incident.

The council received further complaints from Donna Dunbar and Marie Short, who got into Mr Worsfold’s taxi on October 4.

They were returning to Inverness from Glasgow by train and said Mr Worsfold threw their luggage into the boot of the car, possibly breaking a candle holder inside.

He then turned up the radio on their journey because he did not want to engage in conversation. They also complained that the back seat had a crumpled cover over it and that the car smelled “fusty”.

Vic Rawlins, chairman of Inverness Taxi Association, spoke on behalf of Mr Worsfold at the formal hearing yesterday.

He said: “It is not common to get a catalogue of complaints.

“Pete does not get out of his car and make conversation with a lot of the other drivers because of his hearing, probably because of his tinnitus – he just doesn’t hear.

“He does offer his sincere apologies if he was being unfair to them, but he can’t accept responsibility for the candle holder.”

Committee chairman and Inverness Central councillor Peter Corbett said: “I find it very sad to note three complaints in two months – some drivers don’t have complaints for years and years.

“This number of complaints is unusual.”

Culloden and Ardersier councillor Glynis Sinclair said: “Tourism is very important to this part of the world and I think it is a real shame if tourists are inflicted with this kind of bad manners.

“The very least we expect is good manners from the driver.”

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Telford Private Hire Drivers’ Association chairman suspended

The chairman of the Telford Private Hire Drivers’ Association has been suspended, it was revealed today. Mohammed Zaman and a second private hire driver was suspended by Tel-ford & Wrekin Council licensing chiefs.

It comes after Mr Zaman said he was called by colleagues to the council’s MoT depot in Donnington on January 20 during a spot-check operation.

He alleged that the council licensing officers were only stopping Asian drivers during weekly spot checks.

He said voices were raised between himself and a licensing officer.

Mr Zaman said he had done nothing wrong and was now calling for an investigation into allegations of racial discrimination against private hire firms, which was previously the subject of an inquiry in Telford.

He added: “We are asking for the Race Equality people to reopen the inquiry from 2006. I am fighting this all the way. I ran the association with a clean heart. I’m going to clear my name.”

The drivers have been suspended for allegedly bre-aching licence conditions.

Russell Griffin, council spokesman, said: “The suspensions will remain in place until they are considered by the council’s licensing committee on March 8.

“The drivers concerned have the right to appeal against the decision to the magistrates court within 21 days.”

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Driver hired for school run had sex assault record

A taxi driver operating a school run service was hired despite a string of convictions for sexual assaults, an investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman reveals today.

  His history only came to light after he had sexually assaulted a vulnerable boy who he was driving to school.

 The driver, employed by a private taxi company hired by the London Borough of Camden, was given a clean record after checks had been made with the Criminal Records Bureau. It gave him an enhanced certificate giving him the green light to work with children.

 What it had failed to uncover was that he had a list of criminal convictions overseas and had even been the subject of an arrest warrant.

 A report by the Ombudsman criticises Camden Council for the way it handled the outsourcing of its school transport service – and found it guilty of maladministration. It recommended the authority pay £1,000 in compensation to the boy’s mother for the distress that had been caused, plus £220 for her costs in pursuing the case.

 Dr Jane Martin, the Local Government Ombudsman said: “The complainant will always be left with some doubt that the council could have done more to protect her child.”

 She added that the mother “has brought some important issues into the public domain”.

 The report outlines how – in November 2008 – the boy had told his mother he had been sexually assaulted and the driver had give him sweets in return.

 He had been driven to school in the company of an escort – a dinner lady employed by the council.

 The driver was sentenced to an indeterminate prison sentence as a result with a recommendation he serve no less than two-and-a-half years. No criminal action was taken against the escort – although she cannot now be found.

 The report uncovered that the driver had been the subject of a CRB check in May 2006 – and was given a temporary license.

 In August, the CRB apologised for delays in dealing with the check but failed to disclose this was because information was “in conflict”. An enhanced CRB certificate was issued in December.

 Regulations insist all applicants for driving jobs have to state whether they have lived in any country other than the UK in the past two or three years and supply a “certificate of good conduct” from that country if they have. However, the report acknowledges that the residency question “relied upon the honesty of the applicant”.

 Camden Council, it says has now amended its procedures to ensure that all agencies working for it insist on having references covering their past five years of employment.

 The Crown Prosecution Service is now investigating the way the CRB handled the criminal record check.

 “This investigation has highlighted a number of learning points which have implications for councils and their contractors,” said Dr Martin