‘Terrorist’ Uber driver, 26, ‘left a note to his sister telling her to “be strong” before attacking police outside Buckingham Palace with a 4ft samurai sword’

An Uber driver accused of attacking police outside Buckingham Palace with a four foot long samurai sword had left a note to his sister, a court heard today. Mohiussunnath Chowdhury, 26, allegedly drove his blue Toyota Prius in the direction of a police van on Constitution Hill on Friday night.

He stopped just a few feet away from the police van when he is then alleged to have reached for the sword in the foot well of the car while shouting ‘Allahu Akhbar’ He was then wrestled to the ground by police who sprayed him with CS gas and the note was found inside the car, a court heard.

He appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court today facing one count of preparation of terrorist acts. Wearing a grey prison tracksuit the softly spoken Chowdhury spoke only to confirm his name, age and address.

Prosecutor Mark Carol said: ‘On Friday the 25th of August at around 8:30pm in the evening when uniformed officers were traveling in a marked vehicle at the Queen Victoria Memorial, Constitution Hill, when a blue Toyota Prius motor vehicle, drove towards them stopping two feet away.

‘Officers approached the vehicle and the male driver reached for a large sword from inside and shouted ‘Allahu Akhbar’ several times. ‘The officer struggled with the individual and sprayed him with CS spray.’

The court was told Chowdhury was arrested and taken to a police station and the court heard the samurai sword was just under four foot in length. Part of the note was read out in court and it said: ‘To my dearest sister… Do not cry and be strong. ‘Tell everyone that I love them.’ Chowdhury, of Luton, Bedfordshire, was remanded in custody to appear at the Central Criminal Court.

Taxi driver faces £1,100 bill after refusing to take a fare from blind woman with guide dog

A taxi driver who refused to take a fare from a blind woman with an guide dog is facing a bill of more than £1,000. Muhammad Imran Ashraf initially agreed to take the passenger when she approached him at a rank on North Road, Durham, last December before driving off when he saw her assistance dog. A second driver, who witnessed the incident, agreed to take the fare and was able to send the woman details of the first vehicle via text message.

The passenger later contacted Durham County Council to complain and a licensing enforcement officer from the authority was able to confirm the incident had taken place using CCTV footage. Information provided by the woman helped the officer identify that the vehicle was licensed to Ashraf and a letter was sent to him asking to confirm who was driving it at the date and time concerned.

Ashraf later confirmed in a telephone conversation that he was the driver. He said that if any complaints had been made about him then his licence should be revoked as he was not willing to attend an interview or appear before a licensing committee. It was explained to Ashraf that his licence would not be revoked by the officer but that he would be sent a formal request for interview. Ashraf was sent two such letters but did not reply to either.

Ashraf, 44, of Chestnut Avenue, Newcastle, failed to attend Peterlee Magistrates Court when the case was heard on Monday morning after pleading not guilty at an earlier hearing. Magistrates found the case proved in his absence. He was fined £440 and ordered to pay £711 in costs and a £44 victim surcharge.

Owen Clough, Durham County Council’s consumer protection manager, said: “While we know the vast majority of the drivers we license comply with all relevant legislation, we have received information that suggests Mr Ashraf is one of a small number who are refusing to take passengers with assistance dogs. “This practice is an offence under the Equalities Act and we will not tolerate it in County Durham. “We hope that the financial penalty imposed by the magistrates will serve as a deterrent to other drivers who may be minded to refuse passengers.

We would also like to express our thanks to the driver who assisted us in this case. “Although Mr Ashraf is no longer licensed by us, we will continue to investigate allegations of this type and will take appropriate action if any offences are identified.”

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.

SOUTHAMPTON’S cabbies fear they could be driven out of business

SOUTHAMPTON’S cabbies fear they could be driven out of business by a new council crackdown on pollution.

Angry taxi drivers are demanding a meeting with civic chiefs over plans to ditch ageing petrol and diesel cars for new low-emission vehicles.

But according to the city’s taxi groups, some of the electric and hybrid cars, being touted in a new council consultation, cost as much as £50,000.

Southampton Hackey Association (SHA), Ian Hall, fears this could drive already hard-pressed cabbies out of the business.

Mr Hall, a taxi driver of more than 35 years, said: “Southampton City Council is expecting us to buy these purpose built vehicles.“But some of the electric ones cost as much as £50,000.“There is no chance in a million of us being able to pay that for electric vehicles because we haven’t got the work in Southampton that they have for example in London.”

Mr Hall, who has urged the council to have a meeting with drivers, added: “I don’t think it’s fair that they are targeting taxi drivers and private hire vehicles.”

“We’ve got these big ships calling in at the port all the time. Surely they should be targeting them first?”

The city council’s online consultation, which ends on Monday, asks drivers about their preferred choice of vehicle, including hybrid, electric and hydrogen powered cars.

It also asks how the authority can financially support those taxi and private hire drivers who wish to ‘go green’.

The move comes after council chiefs secured a £250,000 grant from the government to help taxi drivers get compliant with the authority’s incoming Clean Air Zone (CAZ).

Civic bosses hope the zone, which could be enforced as early as 2019, will help tackle the problem of high nitrous oxide level in the city.

The authority hope to achieve this by introducing a penalty charge for high-emission vehicles, such as older buses, coaches and lorries.

This could also include certain taxis and older more polluting cars.

In a statement, the city council said it was “required” to introduce a Clean Air Zone and a penalty charging system by the government.

To avoid the charge, vehicles will need to be a minimum “euro 6 standard” – the current lowest emission band and applied to all new car registrations on or after September 2015.

Petrol vehicles will need to be “euro 5” – which are those registered on or after January 2011.

Talking about the taxi consultation, a council spokesperson said: “The council is currently undertaking a feasibility study that will help guide how the city’s CAZ will work. Consultation on our findings, with the public and stakeholders, will take place in early 2018.

“Southampton City Council will also be looking to identify funding opportunities to support taxi operators who may choose to adopt this technology, although this is not a requirement of the Clean Air Zone.”

Breckland District Council responds to taxi access warning

Research released by Muscular Dystrophy UK named Breckland District Council among a list of 15 local authorities in East Anglia which it claims have no current plans to respond to a law change.

But, council chiefs say “members felt that further national guidance was needed in order to reach an informed decision” on how to apply legislation. A change in the law, which came into force in April, means taxi drivers can now be fined up to £1,000 if they refuse to transport wheelchair users or attempt to charge them extra.

The law also states their taxi or private hire vehicle (PHV) licence could be suspended or revoked by their licencing authority if they fail to comply with the new law. However, Muscular Dystrophy UK says that only applies to drivers on council lists of wheelchair accessible taxis.

And the charity has revealed that a Freedom of Information request showed 15 councils across East Anglia, including Breckland, had no current plans to produce such a list.

A spokesperson for Breckland Council said: “We are aware of this change in legislation relating to taxis and a report was considered by members in March, in advance of this coming into force in April. “At the meeting, members felt that further national guidance was needed in order to reach an informed decision, and that it would be more appropriate to wait until a clearer picture has emerged of how the legislation has been implemented nationally. “There are a small number of licensed wheelchair-accessible vehicles in the district and we have not received any complaints about the availability of these vehicles or of these companies refusing to carry a wheelchair. “Our committee is due to consider this decision on 22 November.”

However, disability campaigner Doug Paulley, who carried out the research, said: “It is disappointing that the government’s intent in bringing in this legislation is being undermined by the failure of many councils to undertake the required office work, meaning that taxi drivers can continue to discriminate against wheelchair users with impunity. “While conducting this research, it became clear that many councils simply didn’t think to create them until prompted.”

Taxi drivers could be exploiting lax local rules to avoid tougher checks, LGA warns

Taxi drivers could be exploiting a postcode lottery to avoid stringent criminal records checks, the Local Government Association has warned. Inconsistencies in the level of checks carried out by different local authorities means that drivers with criminal records or poor driving standards could target places perceived to have rules which were less tough, a spokesman said. “Some might have limitations about certain types of previous convictions on drivers so there might be discrepancies on that in some areas, or they might not need to pass a local knowledge test, for example,” he added.

The areas with lighter requirements are well-known among the taxi community, he added, raising concerns that exploitative taxi drivers could play the system to target areas which do not carry out detailed checks. “Drivers may apply for a license in one council and be rejected, so then they go somewhere else and they say yes, because they meet the criteria there,” he added.

Councils are unable to take action against drivers operating in their area who have been licensed by a different council, the LGA added, causing “huge frustration” for local drivers who “may have had to comply with more rigorous licensing standards”.

Last year the council in Rotherham, where drivers were part of an organised ring which picked up and abused more than 1,000 young girls over 16 years, changed its taxi licensing policy to “rebuild trust and confidence in Rotherham’s taxi industry”. The new rules require drivers to have safeguarding training, banned them from having children in the front seat of a vehicle, and required the installation of cameras in most taxis.

The LGA is calling for a Government-enforced law which would create a “level playing field” for drivers.

Cllr Clive Woodbridge, deputy chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “In recent years, we’ve seen a number of child sexual exploitation cases that have involved taxi and PHV holders abusing the trust that has been placed in them, so there are strong safeguarding reasons for strengthening current legislation.” Existing legislation dates back to 1847, when horse-drawn hackney carriages required regulation, and is not suitable for modern taxi firms which use mobile technology, the LGA added.

The launch of Uber in many UK towns and cities has caused controversy among the existing private hire and taxi firms. The mobile app charges cheaper prices than local firms in some cities and enables passengers to electronically book cabs, raising complaints among taxi drivers in some areas that it essentially allows the “hailing” of a minicab.

Mr Woodbridge added that app-based firms are “causing concern about whether drivers are able to compete on a level playing field and has led to numerous and costly legal challenges which local licensing authorities are being forced to spend public money on.

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

Cabbies ‘would be forced off the road’ as Hull council says they may ban diesel taxis from 2018

Councillor Martin Mancey has said the council may ban giving new taxi licences to diesel drivers

Taxi drivers would be ‘forced off the road’ if the city council stopped issuing licences to those with diesel vehicles, it is claimed.

Councillor Martin Mancey, portfolio holder for strategic transport, has suggested the Guildhall may consider following London, where mayor Sadiq Khan has said no new taxi licence should granted to drivers with diesel vehicles from January 2018.

But Peter Nilsson, chairman of the Hull Hackney Carriage Association, has warned that would undoubtedly result in fewer taxis because of the extra costs drivers would incur.

He said: “Would our fares go up? Probably not. But I do believe people would not taxi driving, and so there would be fewer taxis on the road. Each taxi represents a business.

Cllr Mancey was speaking ahead of the publication of the Government’s air action plan, which is expected later this month.

He said: “In London, the mayor is saying that no new taxi licence will be issued for diesel vehicles from January. As a council, we have to look at all measures and I would not rule that out.

“If we were to go down a similar path, and it’s a big if, it would certainly not be in January 2018. We would want to hear the views of both Hackney carriage and private hire drivers. We would have have a discussion with them. There would be extensive consultation.”

Cllr Mancey accepted the measure would be met with concern among Hull’s cabbies, many of whom claim they are struggling to scratch a living even without any incoming extra costs.

However, he said this needed to be seen in the context of an estimated 29,000 deaths each year caused by emmisions.

Cllr Mancey said: “From the point of view of taxi drivers, I imagine there will be some concerns because petrol vehicles do less miles to the gallon, potentially increasing overall costs. That may put pressure on fares. But we have to look at the bigger picture – public health.”

He added the council is working hard to encourage people to use public transport.

Despite this, Mr Nilsson has predicted a number of problems should Hull follow a similar path to London, and said the association’s lawyers would invariably be involved.

He said: “Trying to get a petrol taxi is very difficult, because they’re a lot dearer to run than diesel taxis.

“Electric cars? I personally have not seen any that are fit for purpose. You can only go 100 miles on a charge. What do you do if a fare wants to go to Manchester Airport? It just can’t work.

“Hybrid vehicles are very expensive, compared to say a diesel taxi.”

According to Mr Nilsson’s reckoning, there are 170 black cabs in Hull. He believes there are in the region of 1,300 private hire vehicles.

He feels the driving factor behind Hull’s congestion, linked to poor air quality, is “poor road layout” as opposed to traffic volume.

“The roads are not coping with the number of vehicles,” he said. “No-one one knows the roads like taxi drivers. We know how the city works.

“Look at Spring Bank West, Cottingham Road and Bricknell Avenue. There used to be two lanes in each direction. Now there’s one. That’s the reason why our roads are becoming clogged. We’re losing roads.”

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