Fears over ‘rogue’ South Lakeland “taxi” drivers

‘ROGUE’ taxi drivers are risking the safety of unwitting passengers, South Lakeland cab firms have warned.

Bona fide taxi drivers, vetted and licensed by South Lakeland District Council, say an increasing number of vehicles which look like taxis are operating illegally.

They claim customers getting into cars in good faith are being ripped off and placing their personal safety in jeopardy.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the South Lakeland Taxi Association.

Secretary Sarah Ibbetson said: “You get vehicles coming into town pretending to be taxis and it’s a real safety concern.

“Every taxi driver has seen one at some point and we want to make sure the people of South Lakeland are not defrauded, or worse, by imposters.”

Mrs Ibbetson, co-owner of Windermere Taxis, said it was as ‘easy as putting a sign on your roof’ to pose as a taxi.

Official taxis have panels on both front doors and the rear of the vehicle displaying the South Lakeland District Council logo.

Recognised drivers also have identification badges in their cars.

“Young women getting into a taxi on their own can’t be 100 per cent sure that the driver has a clean criminal record,” explained Mrs Ibbetson.

“You need to know that the driver is honest.”

Andy Britton, owner of Blue Star Taxis in Kendal, said his drivers had raised the issue and called for random checks to be carried out to tackle the problem. Our biggest concern is the safety of the public,” he said. “If they’re getting into an unlicensed taxi, there isn’t adequate insurance and the chances are that the driver hasn’t had a CRB check; there is no way of knowing if he is a fit and proper person.

“Every few weeks, someone should go up and down the taxi rank and check vehicles. At the moment, there’s no deterrent.”

As well as safety concerns, it is feared rogue taxis are charging illegal fares.

Daytime tariffs should start at £3, rising to £4.50 after midnight, but Mrs Ibbetson said some passengers were ‘paying through their nose’ in some cases.

An SLDC spokesman said the authority received ‘very few’ complaints about rogue taxis and stringent procedures were in place to ensure drivers were ‘fit and proper’ people to hold licences.

“We urge all members of the public to make sure they use a licensed taxi, which clearly displays the council logo on the side of the vehicle and a plate identifying the vehicle on the rear,” said the spokesman.

“The driver must be able to produce a badge indicating that he or she has the appropriate driving licence.”

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

Pirates in Derby caught by licensing

TWO private-hire drivers have been caught breaking licensing regulations.

Derby City Council’s licensing team carried out the enforcement exercise following last month’s successful prosecution of three private-hire drivers for failing to comply with private hire rules.

Out of 26 vehicles approached during the exercise on Saturday, two agreed to take a passenger without the journey being pre-booked.

Private hire vehicles must be pre-booked, which can be done either by telephone, e-mail or by going to one of the city’s booking offices.

John Tomlinson, director of environmental and regulatory services, condemned the action of the two drivers.

He said: “It is very disappointing that even after the recent prosecution there are still licensed drivers out there who appear to be perfectly happy to flout the law and put passengers at risk. This is unacceptable.”

Cases are being prepared for taking legal action against the two drivers.

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

Pivotal taxi case ends in conviction

A High Court decision that makes it clear that taxi drivers who pick up fares outside of the area they are licensed in are invalidating their insurance has led to a Newcastle driver being convicted.

Frederick Roy Page, a hackney carriage driver from Cowgate, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to driving without valid insurance during a re-hearing at Gateshead Magistrates on March 6.

Mr Page had first been before magistrates in the town on May 20 2011 to face charges of illegally plying for hire and of operating without valid insurance. He pleaded not guilty to both charges and following trial was convicted of illegally plying for hire, but not for operating without valid insurance. Magistrates handed him a 12 month conditional discharge and ordered him to pay £120 costs.

Following the court result, Gateshead Council chose to appeal the decision on insurance. On February 13, the High Court agreed to overturn the previous decision and refer the case back to Gateshead Magistrates for a re-hearing.

At the re-hearing, Mr Page pleaded guilty to driving without valid insurance. He was handed six penalty points on his driving licence, a £125 fine and ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge.

Mr Page was originally caught during a routine test purchase operation staged by Gateshead Council licensing officers in October 2010. Despite being a Newcastle licensed hackney carriage, Mr Page picked up a fare in Gateshead. The law clearly states that hackney carriages (taxis) are not permitted to pick up fares outside of their licensed area without a booking.

Gateshead Council head of development and public protection, Anneliese Hutchinson, said: “This case is an important one for everyone who lives in, works in, or visits Gateshead and sends out a very clear message to taxi drivers. Hackney carriages are only permitted to pick up in the area they are licensed for, if they do not they are invalidating their insurance – a fact now clarified by the High Court.

“This is about the safety of passengers, if they are travelling in a taxi they need to know that it has insurance that would cover them in the unlikely event of an accident. Taxi drivers must take personal responsibility for the safety of their passengers, driving without valid insurance is simply not acceptable.

source: http://www.gateshead.gov.uk/

Taxi tout is outfoxed by Airport Cars boss

THE director of Airport Cars Gatwick has told how he helped snare a 71-year-old taxi driver illegally touting for work.

The elderly cabbie, Michael Sabana, has been disqualified after he attempted to poach customers leaving the airport.

He was caught on October 28 last year when the potential passenger he approached turned out to be James Kemp, director of Airport Cars, which holds exclusive rights to pick up passengers at Gatwick.

Sabana, from Bedfordbury, London, appeared at Mid Sussex Magistrates’ Court on March 15.

He was found guilty of touting for hire the use of a private vehicle at the airport and using a motor vehicle without third-party insurance. Sabana was disqualified from driving for 12 months, fined a total of £200 and ordered to pay court costs of £200.

Mr Kemp said touts at the airport are a common problem.

He added: “On the day in October we received a report from a taxi driver from London that he saw a guy hanging around and trying to pick up passengers.

“He was looking out for people who seemed confused or lost. I went down there myself and he offered me a taxi.”

Before getting in the car, Mr Kemp told Sabana he needed to head back and collect a friend from inside the airport.

However, he actually went to tell the police what was happening and agreed with officers to get into the vehicle and contact them as soon as it started moving.

Once he had done so, the car was stopped and Sabana arrested.

Mr Kemp added: “This is not a rare thing to happen at all at the airport and it is a problem we are looking to crack down on.

“The hardest bit is catching them. People are in danger of being forced to pay extortionate rates.

“The biggest worry I have is that a passenger getting into a tout’s vehicle is exposed to a ride in a car that is unlicensed, uninsured and has a driver who may present a serious risk of harm.

“You never know who you are getting into the car with when approached by a tout. Anything could happen.”

Mr Kemp added that, in contrast, all of the drivers at Airport Cars are licensed, undertake a specific taxi driving test, are subjected to stringent medical examinations and are checked by the National Criminal Record Bureau.

http://www.thisissussex.co.uk/

East Riding of Yorkshire Council v Dearlove

Source: All England Reporter

Publisher Citation: [2012] All ER (D) 163 (Jan)

Court: Queen’s Bench Division, Administrative Court (London)

Judge:

Richards LJ and Cranston J (judgment delivered extempore)

Representation

John Thackray (instructed by Legal Services Department, East Riding of Yorkshire Council) for the authority.

Craig Hassall (instructed by Amber Solicitors, Hull) for the respondent.

Judgment Dates: 27 January 2012

Catchwords

Criminal law – Trial – Stay of proceedings – Abuse of process – Respondent providing taxi service to local authority investigating officer in breach of licensing laws – Respondent unaware that passenger being investigating officer – No other evidence of criminal activity – Justices finding actions of authority being excessive – Justices ordering stay of proceedings – Whether justices erring in finding conduct going beyond simply providing respondent with opportunity to commit crime.

The Case

Criminal law Trial. The Administrative Court, in allowing the appellant local authority’s appeal, held that the justices had erred in law in finding that the conduct of the authority’s investigating officer had gone beyond simply providing the respondent with an opportunity to commit a crime in circumstances where the respondent had provided a taxi service to the officer in breach of licensing laws.

In the case of Dearlove the Magistrates found the following facts during a voir dire hearing on the issue of abuse of process: “In March 2009 Mr Dearlove placed an advert stating ‘Chauffeur driven BMW X6, VIP, Executive, Corporate, Business travel, Airport Connections, Male/Female Chauffeurs’. At the bottom of the advert was his email address. The Council’s records showed that Mr Dearlove was not licensed to offer the services in the advert. The Licensing Officer liaised with Mr Dearlove via email and although he initially indicated that he would be pursuing licence applications he subsequently said that he would be using his vehicle for ‘weddings and funerals’ only but he had had no work whatsoever.

“On 17 June 2009 a Senior Licensing Officer emailed Mr Dearlove reminding him of his licensing obligations if he was still minded to use his vehicle other than for weddings and funerals. In her email she warned regarding the possibility of a test purchase and the fact that further action would be taken if Mr Dearlove did not respond. Mr Dearlove did respond the following day advising that he was not trading as a taxi and in fact had had no business at all.

“On 4 August 2009 under supervision a Licensing Officer made a telephone call to the number provided in the aforementioned advert. A taxi journey between Ferriby and Beverley was arranged for a fare of £100. On 12 August 2009 the ‘test purchase’ took place. Mr Dearlove was the driver of the vehicle and escorted two Licensing Officers as requested. At the end of the journey Mr Dearlove accepted the £100 payment from the Officer and gave a pre-written receipt for the amount of £100 and a business card. The Council interviewed Mr Dearlove under caution on 8 September 2009 at which he accepted that he was the owner, driver, operator of the vehicle on the day of the test purchase and the sole owner of Executive Business Travel. He accepted that he knew he needed to be licensed but accepted the job because it was a carrot being dangled.”

Despite having the cases of Looseley and Amin before them the justices found as follows: “The ‘test purchase’ took place in the absence of any suggestion, information or complaint that Mr Dearlove had breached the licensing laws. Throughout the whole of the period 19 March 2009 to 12 August 2009 there is no evidence before the court that would give rise to any suspicion whatsoever that Mr Dearlove had acted illegally by contravening the licensing legislation. The only evidence we have is that Mr Dearlove placed a single advert in March 2009 and no more and following that had no work whatsoever.”

“We were of the opinion that the actions of the local authority were excessive in the absence of any criminal activity on Mr Dearlove’s part and as such we found it would be unfair to allow the proceedings to continue and ordered a stay of the proceedings.”

When the matter was appealed case stated the conclusions were somewhat different. In para 11 HHJ Richards stated as follows: “I accept that the justices’ reasons show that they had the relevant authorities very much in mind. The real question in this case is not one of legal misdirection but whether it was reasonably open to the justices to reach the conclusion they did in the application of the relevant legal principles to the particular facts.

“For my part, I respectfully differ from the conclusion they reached. I do not consider that the Council’s officers stepped over the permitted line. They did nothing that an ordinary member of the public might not have been expected to do. Although the justices placed a great deal of weight on the absence of any evidence of unlawful conduct by Mr Dearlove beyond the one test purchase, it is important to look at the wider context of that test purchase.

“It does not seem to me that there was, in the conduct of the council’s officers, anything that could amount to impermissible entrapment. They booked the service just as an ordinary member of the public would do. The telephone booking was the equivalent, for this kind of service, of the flagging down of a taxi in Amin. At first sight it may look like a long journey and a high price, but for an executive service offering business and airport travel with alcohol included it cannot be said to be wholly out of the ordinary. In my view this was not a case of virtue testing or anything akin to it, notwithstanding the Council’s knowledge that Mr Dearlove claimed to have no work and for that reason would no doubt be keen to take a booking. In my view the officers simply provided the opportunity for commission of an offence by the provision of the very kind of service that Mr Dearlove had advertised.

“Mr Dearlove had an express warning that a test purchase might be made and there can be no unfairness in those circumstances in initiating a test purchase a few weeks later. There is, moreover, a strong public interest in ensuring that only licensed operators supply taxi services of this kind.”

Private hire vehicles accused of picking up passengers who flag them down

EAST Grinstead’s cabbies have revealed the ongoing battle in the town between hackney carriages and private hire taxis.

Hackney carriage drivers say their competitors “loiter” around and pluck passengers from under their noses.

Legally, private hire vehicles must be pre-booked; they cannot be hailed in the street, whereas hackney carriages can.

Hackney carriage driver Mike Revely, secretary of the Mid Sussex Taxi Association, said: “The nightclub in East Grinstead is like a gold rush with law and order at its lowest depths.

“They [private hire cars] loiter and they form their own queue behind ours. Our guys park on the pavement opposite the Whitehall, whereas the others park behind or drive up and down and pick up people who flag them. The parasites loiter all over the place and they will rip people off if they get a chance. It’s been a problem for years.”

But Gerry O’Shea, from King Of The Road Cars, said private hire firms are just trying to earn a living.

“There was an incident a couple of years ago when I was parked opposite the Whitehall,” he said.

“There were four hackneys in front of me and two girls were turned away by them because they had no money, so I took them home to Turners Hill free of charge and I got reported for it.

“I did my citizen’s duty and that was frowned upon, but I’d rather they got home safe.

“We’re out there to earn a living. We are only a small outfit and we are competing for work. As long as we can compete in an even battlefield, then fine.”

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

Private-Hire driver fined for illegal pick up

A private-hire driver has been fined £1,000 after illegally picking up two undercover police officers in Watford.

On February 11 last year Zahoor Iqbal of St Paul’s Road, Hemel Hempstead, agreed to carry the officers from the flyover beside Wilmington Crescent to Woodside. He claimed to have picked up the officers by mistake, saying that he had another booking from the same area at the same time to the same destination.

At Watford Magistrates Court on Thursday the prosecution claimed Iqbal booked the job himself using his in-car radio – which is not allowed under legislation covering private hire vehicles.

Carrying any passenger who has not been booked also invalidates the vehicle insurance putting other road users as well as passengers at risk.

On the night he was stopped Iqbal received a fixed penalty notice fine for driving with insufficient insurance before having his vehicle seized by Hertfordshire Police.

The fixed penalty notice carries a fine of £200 and six penalty points.

He was found guilty of plying for hire, fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,000 and a victim surcharge of £15.

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

CAB TOUT FINED £200; but how did he get a license?

A 47-year-old private-hire driver received six points on his licence and was fined for touting outside a Bermondsey nightclub.

Laszlo Gazdag was caught red handed during a police operation, when he asked three female officers if they needed a cab. The cops, who told him that they were going to Sidcup, then followed him to his taxi, where they arrested the Hungarian.

The incident took place on February 25, outside Cable nightclub in Bermondsey Street at 1am.

Mr Gazdag of West Hendon Broadway, Hendon, who had a translator with him in court, pleaded guilty to touting and driving without insurance. He already had three penalty points on his licence for driving without consideration of others in January.

Gazdag, who has been a private-hire driver for four months, was fined £200 and received another six points on his license.
He was also ordered to pay £15 surcharge and £85 costs in weekly installments of £20.

The driver, who lives with his partner, received a four months’ custodial sentence in 2005 for burglary.

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

‘More must be done’ to catch pirates illegally touting for customers

TAXI firms say more needs to be done to catch cabbies who are picking up customers illegally, following the prosecution of three drivers.

Derby City Council took action against Raja Mohammed Azad, Mohammed Saklane and Ali Pour, who pleaded guilty to plying for hire without a licence.

They were given fines of £100 and issued with six penalty points for the offence. They were also issued with fines ranging from £225 to £440 for driving without insurance and were told to pay court costs of £300 each.

The prosecutions followed a crackdown on drivers who took fares from people who had not booked in advance – something only licensed hackney carriages can do.

By agreeing to take passengers who have not pre-booked, private hire drivers are breaking the law and are not insured. The operation was carried out last summer and Javed Khan, from Derby Area Taxi Operators’ Association, which represents hackney carriage drivers, said similar crackdowns were needed.

“It is a real problem in Derby and we’ve been saying that for some time,” he said. “The council isn’t doing enough. Other areas like Nottingham are catching more people and yet in Derby they only catch three in an entire year.”

Hackney carriages are yellow and are either found waiting at the various ranks around the city centre or they can be flagged down if they are free.

Councillor Sean Marshall, chairman of the taxi licensing and appeals committee, said: “Hackney carriage drivers had told me before that it was a problem.

“I actually went out with representatives from about 2am to 4am and I asked around 14 private cars for a cab and not one accepted.

“My findings were backed up with another operation the council did last Saturday when 12 cars were stopped and none would accept fares without pre-booking.

“I’m not convinced this problem is rife in the city but the council will continue to do regular exercises and those caught illegally plying for hire will be prosecuted.”

The council said passengers also needed to ensure whichever type of taxi they used was properly licensed.

Each one has to display a licence plate on the rear of the vehicle and every driver must be wearing a licence badge which contains their photograph.

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

Cambridge Hackney Carriage trade fight back against pirates

Nearly 150 taxi drivers have signed a petition accusing private hire cab drivers of “tarnishing the name of all taxi drivers in Cambridge” by picking up passengers illegally from the street and knocking over a pedestrian.

Taxi associations in the city, Cambridge Hackney Carriage Drivers Association (CHCDA) and Cambridge City Licensed Taxis (CCLT), have written to the council calling for them to take action over what they claim is an increase in private hire cabs taking on-street bookings despite not being licensed to do so.

Glenn Hall, chairman of CCLT, told the News: “What they are doing is illegal, it is endangering the public and it is taking away the trade of licensed drivers.”

Amjad Sheikh, a night taxi driver for CCLT who put the petition together, said the problem also included overcharging on small fare jobs, not allowing emergency vehicles to get past quickly enough and getting customers to ‘book’ the job after they have been picked up.

He said: “We are appealing to the city council that a handful of wrongdoers are tarnishing the name of all taxi drivers in Cambridge.”

On the knocked-over pedestrian, a spokesman from Cambridgeshire Police confirmed they were called to a collision between a car and a pedestrian outside Cineworld at 11pm on January 27, where a woman suffered minor injuries.

He added: “The driver, a 30-year-old man, was sent on the National Driver Improvement Scheme as an alternative to prosecution for careless driving.”

Rowhi Nemer, the owner of Camcab, a private hire cab company in Cambridge, said it was the case some private hire drivers were picking up fares from the street.

He said: “It’s happening and it should not happen – for the safety of both the drivers and customers.

“We have been told some of our drivers have been doing it and we have had a chat with them.”

He said his company supports the licensing officers in any action they take and said while CamCab trained its drivers, all newly qualified private hire drivers needed training to avoid them breaking the rules through ignorance.

Taxi drivers are allowed to pick up passengers on the street but their private hire peers can only accept bookings.

A spokesman for the city council said: “Nine drivers are currently under investigation for taking customers without pre-booking and are being considered in line with the council’s enforcement policy.”

Jas Lally, head of refuse and environment at the council, said: “We will always begin with educating the licensed taxi trade and provide guidance on appropriate practices, but where this fails, formal enforcement action will be considered.”

source: http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/