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.”


Three Derby pirates fined

Three licensed Derby private hire drivers have admitted plying for hire and failing to comply with private hire rules.

All three were issued with fines of £100, issued with six penalty points, and are liable for court costs of £300.

They were also issued with fines ranging from £225 to £440 for driving without insurance.

The case follows a taxi licensing enforcement clampdown by Derby City Council’s licensing team.

On Saturday the team carried out a further enforcement exercise within the city centre to check if private hire drivers were complying with private hire rules.

Of the 12 licensed drivers approached none were prepared to take passengers without the journey being pre-booked.

Councillor Sean Marshall, chairman of the taxi licensing and appeals committee, said:

“This case should be a warning that it is unacceptable to flout the law and that the penalties will be severe when drivers are caught risking the safety of their passengers.

“This prosecution should also act as reminder to residents that for their own safety all private hire vehicles must be booked through an operator of a reputable taxi firm – and if you are enjoying a night out, remember to be safe, stay with your friends and always plan how you are getting home.”

Private hire vehicles must be pre-booked which can be done by either telephone, email or by going to one of the private hire booking offices located around the city.

By agreeing to take passenger without pre-booking, private hire drivers are in breach of legislation and are not insured which poses a risk to any passengers travelling in the vehicle.

The council licences two different types of taxis. Private hire vehicles must be pre-booked while 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.

Whichever type of taxi is used, 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.

Tough Penalties For Illegal Ply-For-Hire Driver

A PRIVATE hire driver has been told to pay over £700, as well as being hit with six points on his licence, after picking up passengers illegally in the city centre.

Kulb-E Abbass, 49, of Chudleigh Road, Crumpsall, was fined £100 for accepting passengers without booking through an operator and ordered to pay £300 court costs.

He was fined a further £300 for driving without insurance, incurring a six point penalty on his licence and told to pay a £15 victims of crime surcharge.

If a private hire vehicle picks up passengers without booking through an operator, their insurance becomes invalid. Only black cabs are insured to pick up passengers from the street

Abbass was spotted picking up three passengers in the early hours of 18 December 2011 outside a city centre nightclub on Princess Street during a joint operation between Manchester City Council and Greater Manchester Police.

Operation Aviano involves city council officers working with support from Greater Manchester Police to target suspected unlicensed taxis in an effort to deter illegal taxi activity in the city.

The passengers confirmed that they had not booked the vehicle through an operator meaning Abbass was guilty of illegally plying for hire and driving without insurance. Meanwhile, police officers were able to seize the vehicle and remove it from the road after confirming it was being driven without insurance.

If a private hire vehicle picks up passengers without booking through an operator, their insurance becomes invalid. Only black cabs are insured to pick up passengers from the street, or ‘ply for hire’.

Councillor Nigel Murphy, executive member for environment, said: “We will always prosecute taxi drivers acting illegally and this case should be another warning that we are working closely with the police and the penalties will be severe when drivers are caught risking the safety of their passengers.

This prosecution should also act as reminder to residents that for their own safety all private hire vehicles must be booked through an operator of a reputable taxi firm – and if you are enjoying a night out, remember to be safe, stay with your friends and always plan how you are getting home.”


Cabbies fined for illegal pick-ups


illegal pick up's

Seven taxi drivers were yesterday each left with a £765 bill  after being caught operating illegally by undercover council officers.

They were all trapped by an operation to catch unlicensed drivers launched by Oadby and Wigston Borough Council.

Adelle Eveligh-Winstone told Leicester magistrates how the drivers, who all have public hackney licences issued by Leicester City Council, picked up council officers posing as passengers in Manor Road, near the University of Leicester.

This is an area covered by licences issued by the Oadby and Wigston Borough Council and city council-licensed drivers cannot ply their trade.

When confronted by the undercover officers, the taxi drivers admitting breaching their licences.

Drivers are not covered by their insurance if they pick up passengers in an area they are not licensed to work in.

Abid Hussain, defending all seven drivers, said they were all of previous good character.

He said: “It is all down to a lack of knowledge as to where the boundaries are between Oadby and Leicester.”

District judge John Temperley fined the drivers £200 each and ordered each to  pay £550 costs and a £15 victim surcharge each.

He told them: “Having been granted licences to work in Leicester, the onus is upon you to make sure you knew where the boundaries were.”

Speaking after the case, Kalv Garcha, Oadby and Wigston borough council solicitor and acting head of corporate resources, said: “Our primary consideration is always public safety and it is a matter of concern that these drivers put the public at risk by carrying out uninsured journeys. The council takes an extremely serious view of such matters. We will continue to mount such operations and hope that the outcome of this hearing and the financial penalties incurred for the offences will serve as a deterrent.”

Hafiz Afzal (38), of Cordery Road, Evington, and Kulwant Singh (43), of Borrowdale Way, Evington, pleaded guilty to driving a taxi in Oadby and Wigston on October 4 last year when the carriage was not licensed as a public hackney carriage in that area.

Mehar Pooni, 48, of Severn Road, Oadby, pleaded guilty to the same charge but on October 5 last year.

Mukhtar Ahmed (43), of Baden Road, Horston Hill, Leicester;  Amrik Dhillon (57),  of Old Charity Farm, Stoughton; and Mohammed Galaria (54), of Davett Close, Evington, pleaded guilty to driving a taxi, in Oadby and Wigston, on November 4 last year when the carriage was not licensed as public hackney carriage.

Amir Anwar (34), of Hinckley Road,  Leicester Forest East, pleaded guilty to the same charge but on November 5 last year.


Officers shame taxi touts

A touts vehicle

TOUT squad officers at Heathrow have stepped up their campaign to shame illegal minicab drivers.

As part of the team’s ongoing focus on cracking down on tout offenders picking up passengers outside the terminals, those arrested for offences will now find their vehicle windows displayed with a large poster-sized sticker displaying ‘Driver arrested on suspicion of taxi touting’.

Aside from charging extremely high priced journeys, among the most common law-breaking behaviour from drivers of illegal minicabs are not being covered by correct insurance and that vehicles are not maintained to the same standards as legal taxis.

DS Steve Nunn, head of Heathrow’s Tout Squad said: “We are using these stickers as a public means of showing touts that they will not be tolerated at Heathrow.

“In addition, we want to reassure the public and lawful drivers that the problem of touting is being taken very seriously.”

Heathrow’s chief inspector Adrian Baxter said: “It is important that people understand the serious implications of unlicensed minicabs.

“Quite simply, if you get into an unlicensed cab, you are getting into a stranger’s car.”

If you have any information about illegal minicabs, or any other crime, contact Heathrow police station on 101, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


No jail for private-hire driver who caused death of woman outside Coventry wedding reception

A private-hire driver has been spared jail for causing the death of a woman in a  crash after a wedding reception near Coventry.

Louise Jane Acton, aged 31, had just left a party at Coombe Abbey Hotel last  summer when she was hit by a private hire car.

She died instantly after being struck by a Vauxhall Zafira while walking  along Brinklow Road, near the entrance to the hotel and park.

Ms Acton, of Middlewich, Cheshire, suffered head and chest injuries at about  1.30am on Sunday August 7.

At Leamington Magistrates Court, Krzysztof Karnafel, aged 35, of Montvale  Gardens, Leicester, pleaded guilty to causing death while driving without  insurance.

He was handed a community order for one year with 40 hours of unpaid work,  disqualified from driving for a year, and ordered to pay costs of £100.

Malcolm Stoddart, prosecuting, told the court how Ms Acton had been at the  wedding party and walked out after having an argument with her partner.

She came out of the main drive of Coombe Abbey and was walking along the  grass verges of Brinklow Road towards Coventry.

Karnafel, who failed to renew his private-hire licence and insurance, had just picked  up four people from the same wedding reception for a pre-arranged booking to  take them back to Leicester. The court also heard how Ms Acton’s mum was driving  to Coombe Abbey to pick her up and had passed her without knowing it was her  daughter.

Mr Stoddart said: “The witnesses in the private hire vehicle were aware of  Louise and had contact with her during the evening. They were aware she had been  drinking and had become argumentative.

“One witness said the defendant was driving at 50mph.

‘‘In his statement he says: ‘Just out of nowhere a girl appeared in the  middle of the road – maybe a metre away from the central markings. I don’t think  he had enough time to brake.’

“Another  driver was driving in the opposite direction and saw her  silhouette in the head lights of an oncoming vehicle which was the defendant’s  car.

“It would appear the defendant failed to renew his licence when it expired in  June and at the time of this fatal collision he was driving uninsured.”

Mark Parry, defending, said: “He accepts he caused the death, sadly, of this  lady.

‘‘The circumstances are quite tragic.

“At the time of the collision Ms Acton was already in the road at the time of  the collision.

‘‘One witness who was a passenger in Karnafel’s taxi says: ‘We turned right  onto the main road. We were only travelling for two minutes and the next thing I  know the windscreen was smashed and we came to a stop’.”

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Bogus Bognor taxi driver fined by magistrates

only use licensed taxis

A Bognor Regis bogus taxi driver has been ordered to pay more than £2,000 in fines and court costs.

Krzysztof Pietruszewski was convicted in his absence at Worthing Magistrates’ Court of driving a licensed vehicle as a hackney carriage driver without holding the required licence.

Pietruszewski, 28, of Gordon Avenue, was caught acting as a taxi driver in Arun in July after a member of the public reported seeing him driving a licensed taxi around the town.

Pietruszewski had applied to the council for a licence but had failed to provide all the relevant documents required of him for a hackney carriage driver’s licence to be granted.

This included paperwork for a Criminal Records Bureau disclosure to be carried out.

Magistrates fined him £600 and ordered him to pay £1,717 in court costs. He failed to appear at court and had offered no plea or mitigation to the charges.

Arun District Council’s cabinet member, Cllr Paul Dendle, who has responsibility for licensing, said: “The council works hard with the taxi trade to maintain good standards of safety and protection of the customers.

“We would urge residents to only use licensed taxis for their own safety.

“We will continue to work hard to ensure dangerous and irresponsible behaviour does not threaten either the public or, indeed, the honest and law abiding taxi professionals who provide a good service to the community and will prosecute people who we find to be breaking the law.”

Pietruszewski was convicted in his absence on December 6, 2011. He was given six weeks to ask for the case to be re-heard but failed to do this.


North East England: Private-Hire firm Blueline’s licensing row rumbles on

ONE of Tyneside’s largest private-hire firms has been told it must agree to operate a  Newcastle-specific service – or face closure.

Newcastle City Council took away Blueline ‘taxis’ operating licence in  December prompting a court room showdown.

Officers at the council got fed up with the firm sending drivers to  Northumberland to get a licence – which the council says results in a different  standard of safety checks being applied to those operating under Newcastle’s  criteria.

In order to operate in Newcastle, Blueline had promised it would run a  Newcastle number for city-registered drivers.

Documents entered into court show this number would have been known by fewer  than 100 people since the firm did not advertise it.

Newcastle City Council has said even when the number was answered, test calls  showed the drivers sent were typically registered outside of the city.

The courts have now ordered the firm to comply with some of the conditions  the local authority originally ordered or face losing its licence.

Blueline says it is awaiting the outcome of a judicial review on other issues – those regarding where it gets its hackney licences from.
court case

Lib Dem councillor Anita Lower, who has raised the issue in questions to the  council, said: “This is about the fact the council won a case at the High Court  against drivers using licences not granted by the council.

“We won that case, but it is still going on. We are talking about drivers not  being licensed by Newcastle, drivers not being vetted by Newcastle and drivers  being outside our system of safety checks.

“People should be told that the council has no way of knowing whether the car  customers are getting in meets our standards because it is not licensed  here.”

Ian Shanks, managing director of Blueline, defended his firm.

He said: “While we are pleased that the district judge agreed that we can use  any hackney carriage to fulfil bookings, this case was only necessary because  the legislation is antiquated, unclear and out-of-date with modern  technology.

Law Commission is currently reviewing taxi legislation

“Fortunately for us and all councils in England and Wales, the Law Commission  is currently reviewing taxi legislation and is expected to present a new draft  taxi law bill to the Government.

“As a company, Blueline has been campaigning for many years for new taxi laws  because the current laws that date from 1847 are simply out of date and do not  allow for us to provide better services to our customers.

“As one of the largest taxi businesses in the UK, we shall continue to  provide information to the Law Commission in the hope that it helps them to  draft the best possible laws for the future.”

Stephen Savage, director of regulatory services and public protection at  Newcastle City Council, said: “We are pleased that the judge took the view that  people have faith in the licensing system of this council and that committee  were correct to set a condition to ensure that Blueline maintained an  independent operation in Newcastle, requiring use of private hire vehicles and  drivers licensed by Newcastle city council.

“This ensures public safety remains at a local level and within the control  of the council. The city council is determined to maintain the high standards  which currently exist in this area.”


Bus stop ban bad for trade

CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Private Hire driver Naseem Nazir thinks "taxis" should be allowed to park in bus stops if they are dropping off customers

A Private-Hire firm owner is calling on Kirklees Council to change its policy of fining all drivers caught parking at bus stops.

Dewsbury Cars boss Naseem Nazir said “taxis” were a form of public transport and should be exempt from the ban.

Mr Nazir said: “Being a private hire firm, we’re in public service like the buses. I understand they’re recognised by the government, but why not taxis?

“When there are pensioners or mums with young kids I tell my drivers to go out and help with their bags, but if we can’t park near enough to where they want we’ve got a problem. For some customers to walk even five yards is a struggle.”

He said most customers were unhappy if a driver told them they could not make a drop-off where asked, especially if the meter then ticked over.

In May, Kirklees Council introduced an enforcement van kitted out with CCTV to catch drivers breaking parking rules.

The council said there had been a vast improvement in the way drivers parked as a result.

But Mr Nazir, 39, said it had added to his drivers’ woes with two from the Halifax Road firm fined in recent weeks.

“The van automatically takes a photo if there’s anyone in a bus stop and they get a fine, but sometimes there is nowhere to pick up apart from the bus stop,” he said. “One example is next to Val’s cafe where that’s the safest point because we’re out of the way.”

A council spokesman said using bus stops for pick-ups obstructed buses and other traffic, and made it unsafe for bus passengers who had to get off in the road as a result.

He said: “It should also be remembered that, in addition to the ranks provided, taxis are allowed to stop on single and double yellow lines and in car parks and pay and display areas when dropping off or picking up.”




Illegal private-hire drivers fined after Leicester crackdown

Illegal PH 'rank' in London (pic courtesy of the Anderson Shelter)

Four   unlicensed private-hire drivers have been fined for picking up passengers.

The men were caught during a city council and police crackdown on illegal taxi drivers in the Hotel Street area of the city centre.

They were all private hire drivers who are not insured to pick up passengers, unless they have booked the taxi in advance.

The men all admitted driving, standing or plying for hire when their vehicles were not licensed as hackney carriages on May 6. They also pleaded guilty to driving without third party insurance.

Bharat Bharwad (46) of Galleywood Drive, Beaumont Leys, Leicester, was fined a total of £330 and ordered to pay £566.40 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

He received six penalty points on his driving licence.

Nicki Agalamanye, for Leicester City Council, said he admitted the offence but said it was debatable whether the fare was pre-booked.

Tamas Etebar (31), of Yew Tree Drive, Braunstone Frith, Leicester, was fined £375, with a £15 surcharge and £264 costs.

He received seven penalty points on his licence.

He told the court the passengers just jumped in this car after he dropped off another fare.

Ahmad Fawad Faizi (29), of Severn Street, Highfields, Leicester,  was fined £375, and ordered to pay £15 surcharge and £264 costs, with seven penalty points added to his licence.

Mohamed Pasha (45), of Halstead Street, Spinney Hills, Leicester was fined £240, ordered to pay £15 surcharge and £264 costs, with seven penalty points on his licence.

source: Leicester Mercury