PLANS to make all Bournemouth taxis carry CCTV cameras have been shelved because of fears the move would invade people’s privacy.
The proposal was put forward by council officers following a series of incidents in which taxi drivers had been held at gunpoint, attacked with CS spray, subjected to racist abuse, spat at, threatened and attacked.
A report to the licensing board heard that the council could foot the installation bill of between £600 and £700 a cab, then charge owners a leasing fee of around £15 a month, or 75p a day.
It said: “CCTV cameras provide protection for both drivers and passengers. They deter assaults, theft and non-payment by passengers and protect passengers from inappropriate actions of drivers.” The footage would have only been made accessible to investigating officers looking into alleged criminal offences.
Councillor Andrew Morgan, the council’s chairman of licensing, said: “The board considered the issue closely and decided that the installation of CCTV would be a disproportionate step and a real infringement on privacy.”
After the decision, taxi driver Bill Prescott said: “We can ill afford any unnecessary expenses at the moment. I run 13 cars and have hardly had any incidents.”
Driver Stephen Walker said: “People want privacy. We see people who shouldn’t be together and people in a drunken state, including councillors, judges, doctors.
“Also we should have the right to if we so wish – we shouldn’t be forced.”
Another driver, Ian, who did not want to reveal his surname, said: “I think everybody would feel safer, customers and drivers.
“I experience crime all the time, but it’s a waste of time calling the police.
“These guys out here are working for £3 an hour, doing a 15 hour day just to earn a living.
A FLEET of taxis are to be fitted with CCTV cameras following two knifepoint attacks on cabbies.
Basildon-based company A&B Taxis is proposing to fit all 150 of its vehicles with the cameras to help prevent further attacks or catch crooks targeting drivers red-handed on film.
After one of the firm’s drivers was recently stabbed in a terrifying attack, Gary Brand – one of the owners of A&B – met with his employees to discuss their safety.
They have agreed to install the specially designed cameras in each of their vehicles. Staff will take a vote on the proposals next week.
The cameras will cost £960 per vehicle to install and the company will foot half of the bill while drivers will be asked to pay the rest.
Despite the expense, Mr Brand said the safety of his staff and customers was priceless. He said: “It has become a nightmare out there for taxi drivers and it’s sad we are having to do this.
“But we care for the safety of the people we employ and also we want the public to know our cabs are safe.
“These cameras will be in the public’s interest, as people can feel safe in the knowledge the cab they will be travelling in has cameras and audio equipment recording everything. So if something happens we will have the evidence to take to court if necessary.”
The move has received the backing of A&B drivers as well as taxi industry officials.
Dave Downton, chairman of the Basildon Private Hire Association, said: “This is a positive thing and I think every other cab driver in the area should have CCTV in their taxis.”
A Value Cars driver was allegedly threatened and robbed at knifepoint in Ryedene Close, Vange at 2.50am on Monday.
A 24-year-old man has been charged with theft in connection with the incident and will appear in court later this month.
It comes after a 31-year-old A&B driver was stabbed by a gang of robbers in Redgrave Road, Vange at 10pm on Friday February 10. Three men have been arrested and bailed in connection with that attack.
Councillor Jan Brown, chairman of licensing at Watford Borough Council, said: “The council’s specific role is to license taxis. We don’t provide CCTV cameras to private businesses like taxis, in the same way that we don’t pay for CCTV cameras in shops, offices or homes, for example.”
Shafiq Ahmed, the chairman of the Watford Hackney Carriage Drivers’ Association, said attacks on taxi drivers were increasing as they are easy to isolate and criminals know they have cash and expensive items like satnav on them.
He said: “More and more attacks are happening and some are lucky to be alive.
“No one should go to work knowing it could happen to them.”
Pilot taxi CCTV schemes have already been trialled in Southampton where the council introduced a license stating cabs had to have cameras installed.
The move has been opposed by privacy campaigners and some taxi firm owners.
Mr Ahmed added that if there was already CCTV on public transport such as trains and buses, he did not see there being a problem with it in taxis.
STATE-of-the-art CCTV cameras could be installed in all Bournemouth taxis, in a bid to protect both drivers and passengers.
Licensing chiefs will consider a proposal that could require taxi drivers to pay £15 a month to have cameras fitted in their cabs.
It follows a series of incidents, in which taxi drivers have been held at gunpoint, attacked with CS spray, subjected to racist abuse, spat at, punched and kicked and threatened.
Under the plans, Bournemouth council would buy the CCTV camera system, which costs between £600 and £700 per vehicle, and lease it to taxi owners for around £15 per month.
A report to Bournemouth’s licensing committee, states: “CCTV cameras provide protection for both drivers and passengers in a number of situations.
“They deter assaults, theft and non-payment by passengers and protect passengers from inappropriate actions of drivers. Digital evidence with video and audio recording can be used to prove or disprove the content of complaints made to the council.”
The cost, which works out at around 75 pence per day, is “a reasonable cost when considering public and driver safety.”
The CCTV footage would only be accessible to investigating officers and would only be accessed to investigate criminal offences.
If councillors on the licensing committee approve the proposal, it will be a condition of taxi licences that owners install the CCTV cameras and produce copies when requested by a licensing officer or police officer.
Alternatively, councillors could reject the proposal outright or suggest a period of consultation.
Yesterday’s licensing committee was cancelled so the issue will be considered at the next meeting.
A HUNDRED cab drivers have signed a petition against controversial plans to film all conversations in Oxford’s taxis.
They have handed the petition to Oxford City Council over its plan for video and audio recording in the city’s 665 taxis from April and comes as the Information Commissioner continues to review whether the scheme is lawful.
The council says that the scheme would provide greater safety for both drivers and passengers.
Petition organiser and private hire driver Khalil Ahmed, 51, said: “The overwhelming view is that the taxi drivers are against the cameras.
“To me it is an invasion of my, my family’s and my customers’ privacy and our safety.”
The High Wycombe part-time driver said customers are against the plans.
He said: “They do not want their privacy invaded.”
The recordings could only be accessed on request by police or council licensing officers for a specific crime or licensing issue, the council has said.
The plans, approved last year, were backed by the City of Oxford Licensed Taxi Cab Association, which was not available for comment.
Yet Mr Ahmed said: “There are enough laws, there are enough safeguards and there are enough CCTV cameras in Oxford as it is.”
Firms record where the fare was picked up and dropped off and any telephone numbers for security, said Mr Ahmed.
He said drivers are prepared to “chip in” to challenge it in the courts.
Cab firm boss Kevin May lost a legal challenge against Southampton City Council, which is running the same recording system, in December. A district judge said he did not have the power to throw out the plan but said he considered it unlawful and it could be heard at the High Court.
Part-time taxi driver Mohsin Cheema, 30, said: “Most of our local customers are saying they will feel uncomfortable with someone watching them.”
Recording will start when the key is turned in the ignition and stop 30 minutes after it is turned off. Systems must be in place by March 2015.
Clark Brundin, chairman of the council’s hackney carriages and private hire licensing sub committee, said: “The original request for having audio visual recording came from the Hackney carriage and private hire people.
“You might find a single isolated private hire driver who doesn’t like the idea but the companies are keen these should be in cars.”
But the Information Commissioner will have the final say, he said, adding: “I can’t tell you absolutely positively that it is going to go ahead.”
Commissioner spokesman Greg Jones said: “We don’t feel that audio recording is necessary all the time.”
Braintree Taxi Association was in talks with the county council and Braintree Council, but said the county council withdrew its offer of money because the association did not have a data protection manager.
Chairman John Ahmed said: “We were not told until after the deadline for funding had passed that we had to nominate one of members to manage the data.
“Our drivers are very busy and all work, we were disappointed we were not given time to sort this out.
“It is completely unfair on our drivers that Uttlesford cabbies have been given this funding and we were overlooked.
“Especially as we have been lobbying to get CCTV cameras for the past two years.”
Taxis in Uttlesford will be the first in Essex to be fitted with CCTV, ensuring greater safety for passengers and drivers alike.
The scheme, initially in 15 taxis and private hire vehicles from eight fleets operating in the district, sees video and audio equipment installed which monitors both the front and rear of the vehicle.
It is a joint venture between Uttlesford District Council, Essex Police, Essex Fire and Rescue and the Uttlesford Licensed Operators and Drivers Association, which work together as the Quality Taxi Partnership. Funding for the scheme, totalling £10,000, was provided by Essex County Council.
Cllr Robert Chambers, Uttlesford District Council Cabinet Member for Finance and Administration, is the council’s lead member for licensing matters. He said: “This is an excellent example of partnership working that will bring a real difference to people in the district. Uttlesford has the lowest crime rate of any Essex district and initiatives such as this can only help make it even safer.”
Barry Drinkwater, Chairman of trade body the Uttlesford Licensed Operators and Drivers Association, said: “‘We are very grateful to Essex County Council for their generous funding – taxi drivers who have signed up to the scheme have not had to pay anything towards the purchase or installation of CCTV in their vehicles.
“It’s great that our leading taxi operators in and around Saffron Walden, Great Dunmow, and Stansted Mountfitchet all appreciate the potential benefits. One operator reported that last weekend his new CCTV helped him not lose his fare when a group of passengers threatened to run off.”
Chief Inspector Alyson Wilson, from Essex Police, said: “Essex Police is strongly in favour of this initiative, and we believe the benefits are potentially substantial for both drivers and passengers.
“For the driver, CCTV provides a massive deterrent against the risk of a passenger making off without paying his fare, or even of being robbed or assaulted.
“In addition, because CCTV provides an objective record of events, it protects both drivers and passengers from any malicious claims of inappropriate or criminal behaviour.”
Councillor Tracey Chapman
Essex County Councillor Tracey Chapman, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, added: “Following requests from taxi drivers in Uttlesford, I am pleased that we have been able to financially contribute towards the installation of CCTV cameras. The Uttlesford Quality Taxi Partnership is the first in the county to benefit from this funding and I hope the installation will reassure drivers and passengers about their personal safety.”
The Uttlesford Quality Taxi Partnership was set up in 2009 to help the relevant authorities, agencies and members of the trade work together more closely and improve standards.
A taxi driver turned detective to clear his name after a mum accused him of assaulting her two-year-old son.
Aamer Shahzad, 31, feared he could be sent to prison and lose his licence after being quizzed by police over the allegations that he slapped the youngster for jumping on his car seats.
The case against him was eventually dropped thanks to CCTV footage he obtained after contacting a shop owner in Normanton, near Wakefield.
The pictures revealed the toddler’s mother smacking her son across his legs shortly after Mr Shahzad had dropped them off.
The woman, in her 20s, later admitting making up the story against Mr Shahzad after panicking when she realised she had left red marks on his legs and feared she would get into trouble.
The mum, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted assault and perverting justice on July 25. She was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and made the subject of a supervision order for two years.
Passing sentence at Leeds Crown Court, recorder Simon Jackson said: “You set out over two pages the details of your allegation against this taxi driver.
“That was an outrageous allegation to make against an identified individual which led to serious consequences.”
He added: “One has only to consider or speculate as to what might have been the consequences for this unfortunate taxi driver Mr Shahzad if he had not got the good sense and determination to pursue an inquiry at the local supermarket and obtain evidence which may never have been available but for his diligence, which revealed the assailant in this case was the defendant and not Mr Shahzad.
“Had that not been available, I am satisfied this defendant would have persisted in her complaint and the evidence may have been believed and this would have led to a serious charge against this wholly innocent man, with perhaps a miscarriage of justice following. It was very fortunate that was not the outcome.”
After the hearing, Mr Shahzad, 31, a driver for Normanton-based Local Cars, told the YEP he was off work for two days with stress and worry over the false claim.
He said: “I was shocked that she could say that about me. I was stressed out when the police twice called me in for interviews. I could have lost my job and my taxi driver’s licence.
“She didn’t complain about anything during the journey, she just paid her fare and got out.”
He added: “When the truth came out I was relieved. I didn’t understand what she had against me. All I did was pick her up and drop her off. If I hadn’t got the CCTV footage my livelihood could have been ruined.
“She can’t be a good person, doing what she did.”
Mr Shahzad’s boss, Wasim Ramzan, said: “I’ve never had any complaints about him, he’s a good worker.
“I can’t understand why she did it, to blame a person she doesn’t even know.
“She was just looking for an easy way out for herself.”
Jonathan Wilkinson, for the woman, said she lost her temper and hit the youngster after he bit her finger.