Mum of girl injured in horror smash ‘furious’ that private-hire driver is back on the roads

The mother of a little girl who was left brain damaged after a crash with a private-hire says she’s “absolutely furious” that the driver is back in the profession.

Jessica Bootes was just four when she was seriously injured in a horror road crash on the A194 near Lindisfarne Roundabout, in Jarrow in March 2014.

Parents Lisa and Chris Bootes Newcastle s RVI with daughter Jessica, after her accident at age four.

The youngster, now seven, spent 11 days in a coma and had to have the left side of her skull removed, and suffered paralysis down the right side after the five-car collision.

Private-hire driver Amir Azad, of Lilac Road, South Shields, smashed into the back of the family car while they were stopped at traffic lights and was fined £250 and given six penalty points at South Tyneside Magistrates Court.

South Tyneside Council later revoked his private-hire license, but he has now secured one with Newcastle City Council and is working as a private-hire driver.

Jessica’s mum, Lisa, from Harton, South Shields, said: “I’m absolutely furious. A court deemed him unfit to drive on the roads in South Tyneside so how can he go to Newcastle and get a licence?

“This man gets to walk about every day and get on with his life when he ruined my family’s lives.”She added: “She can’t cope with being in a car for more than 10 minutes.

She doesn’t feel safe. I get panic attacks too and can’t drive long distances.

“I’m going to fight this. I don’t care what I’ve got to do or how long it takes.”

A Newcastle City Council spokesman said: “

A private hire driver’s licence application was considered and granted by the council on November 2015.

“All applications for a private hire licence must follow a robust legal framework and are considered by committee in accordance with guidelines issued by the Department for Transport and Home Office.

“Every application is subject to a rigorous checking process and is carefully considered. Convictions, cautions and driving licence endorsements are all taken into account and we rely on the Disclosure & Barring Service and DVLA vetting procedures together with advice from Northumbria Police.

Mr Azad refused to comment when he was contacted by the Gazette.

Read more at: http://www.shieldsgazette.com/

Uber driver dragged her out of his car because she ‘wasn’t talking properly’

A cancer survivor whose illness left her with a speech impediment claims an Uber driver dragged her out of his cab because she ‘wasn’t talking properly’.

Sam Barbic, who has a hole in her neck, said the driver screamed at her and grabbed her arm to pull her from his vehicle outside her home in London.

The 45-year-old said she was then charged £5 for the cancelled journey, leaving her ‘baffled’ and ‘horrified’ by the experience, which Uber has pledged to investigate.

Sam Barbic said the driver screamed at her and grabbed her arm to pull her from his vehicle outside her home in London

The operation – a laryngectomy – saw her voice box removed, meaning she now speaks softly, with long pauses, by pressing against the hole in her airway.

Sam, 45, from Kensal Rise, said: ‘I got the standard Uber text saying he had arrived, so I went downstairs to find him. I walked round the corner and saw the car but he drove off.

‘So I called him – the first thing I always say is that I have had an operation, please bear with me.

‘I have had a total laryngectomy from throat cancer so my voice is faint with lots of pauses and very gravelly.

‘He kept saying he couldn’t hear me and hanging up. I rang him three times asking him to come back and pick me up.’

Sam was diagnosed with cancer five years ago and had her entire throat removed and replaced with parts of her intestine

Sam then saw there was a function on Uber to text the driver so messaged him explaining she had had a throat operation and could he come back to pick me up.

She added: ‘I then got in the car and asked him why he had driven off. He immediately said: “Get out of the car, I’m not driving you”.

‘I was stunned. I asked what the problem was and explained I had had throat cancer and that was why my voice was funny.

‘He just kept saying: “Get out the car, get out of the car now”. The more I tried to explain to him the more he insisted I get out.

‘He then got out of the car and opened the passenger door screaming at me to get out. I went to get out of the car and he took hold of my arm to ensure I got out of the car.

‘He then drove straight off leaving me standing there. I was in a terrible state, in shock, horrified at how I’d been treated and baffled as to why.

‘I no longer breathe through my nose or mouth and have a hole in my neck where I breathe. I wear a plaster over this so it is very clear to anyone I have had surgery.

‘I used to wear a scarf but I find people respond better when they can see I have a problem than when I try to hide it.’

Sam said: ‘The only thing I was thankful for was that I was outside my flat and not stranded in the middle of nowhere trying to get home.

‘I emailed Uber a complaint about him and got an automated reply saying the matter was resolved. They also charged me £5 for cancelling the fare.

‘They have since called me saying they are extremely concerned about the incident but I missed the call. When I tried to call back, I couldn’t get through.

‘I had extensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy but was told my only option for survival was a total laryngectomy.

‘This involved removing my entire throat and building me a new throat with my intestine.

Sam, who works as a set designer, was hoping to travel to Covent Garden to meet a friend when the incident allegedly occurred at around 6.45pm on Thursday

‘My voice box was removed as part of the surgery and I spent one year unable to speak at all, but following further surgery had a small valve installed which enabled me to talk.

‘In order to speak I have to press the hole in my neck to block the airway and send air into my mouth so I can make sounds.

‘My speech is understandable but takes a bit of time to get used to as I have to pause for breath a lot.

‘It’s not very loud and I’ve been told I sound a bit like Darth Vader, but I’m hardly threatening. I’m a short middle-aged woman.’

An Uber spokesman said: ‘We would like to extend our sincerest apologies to Sam. We’re looking into this as a matter of urgency.

‘We’re waiting to speak to all parties so we can fully investigate this incident and take the appropriate action.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Illegal private-hire driver fined at court

A man has been fined after being spotted driving a taxi in Burnley without a private hire licence.

Abdul Majeed, of Albert Street, Brierfield, pleaded guilty driving a private hire vehicle without a current licence, and guilty to using a vehicle without insurance.

He was fined £120 and ordered to pay £200 costs and a £30 victim surcharge by Burnley magistrates.

He also had eight penalty points put on his driving licence.

The court was told that Majeed held a private hire driver’s licence between October 2012 and October 2015.

However, when he applied to renew his licence the application was refused by Burnley Council, a decision upheld by magistrates on appeal.

On May 12th this year a council officer was at a Burnley petrol station when he saw a Vauxhall Vectra car displaying private hire signage at one of the pumps.

He recognised Majeed who put fuel in the car, paid up and then drove off in it.

Majeed was subsequently asked to attend an interview under caution but despite several requests he refused to make himself available or keep appointments, the magistrates were told.

In July a council officer spoke to the operator of the private hire firm involved who said he had been on holiday at the time of the offence and knew nothing about it.

He confirmed Majeed did not have permission or authority to drive the private hire vehicle. As such Majeed was not insured to drive it.

Read more at: http://www.burnleyexpress.net/

Swansea private hire operator fined a second time for employing unlicensed drivers

A PRIVATE hire operator has been prosecuted for a second occasion for licensing offences, including employing unlicensed drivers.

Matthew Benjamin, operator of MCB Executive Travel in Swansea, pleaded guilty at Brecon Magistrates Court to five charges, after being found on four occasions to be employing unlicensed drivers to undertake hirings, as well as failing to produce his private hire operator records as required.

It follows a prosecution for similar offences earlier this year.

The prosecutions were both brought by environmental health service department of Powys Council, the authority which licenced the business.

John Powell, cabinet member for environmental health, said: “The purpose of licensing the hackney carriage (taxis) and private hire trade is to ensure the safety of the public by ensuring that drivers are fit and proper and that the vehicles they drive are safe, suitable and reliable.

“This case should act as a warning to the trade that if they fail to obtain the necessary licences for their vehicles and drivers the council will take the appropriate action. Our licensing officers will continue to make sure that vehicles and their drivers comply with the important safeguards.”

Benjamin was fined £600 for each of the charges, and ordered to pay £2,125 legal costs and a surcharge of £60, bringing the total to £5,185.

In May, he had pleaded guilty to offences at Llandrindod Wells Magistrates’ Court, including employing an unlicensed driver to carry passengers, in a prosecuting also brought by the authority.

Benjamin pleaded guilty to three charges and was fined £350 for each of the charges. He was also ordered to pay £240 legal costs and a surcharge of £35, a total of £1,325.

It is the duty of all private hire operators to ensure that all vehicles and drivers employed by them are licensed to do so, in order to ensure both vehicles and drivers are safe and fit for purpose.

Read more at http://www.southwales-eveningpost.co.uk

Northampton man caught operating taxi company with forged licence

A Northampton taxi driver has been prosecuted for operating a private hire company using a forged licence.

The 30-year-old man, appeared at Northampton Magistrates Court last Tuesday and pleaded guilty to offences under the Fraud Act 2006, Forgery & Counterfeiting Act 1981 and no insurance.

After being found guilty on all three charges, the man was sentenced to a Community Service Order for 12 months 60 hours unpaid work for false instrument under the Fraud Act, a Community Service Order for 12 months 60 hours unpaid work for making a false document under the Forgery & Counterfeiting Act, eight points on his DVLA licence for having no insurance, a £300 fine for costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

Cabinet member for Community Safety, Cllr Mike Hallam, said: “Having fully licensed vehicles , operators and drivers who work to ensure the safety of Northampton residents is very important to us.

“As part of our commitment to keeping our night time economy and public transport safe, we carry out regular checks and enforcements and we hope prosecutions will act as a deterrent to other people from committing offences in the future.”

Read more at http://www.northampton-news-hp.co.uk/

Rossendale driver refused passenger with guide dog

A taxi driver refused to pick up a blind war veteran because he had a guide dog.

Cabbie Emmanuel Osayande has been ordered to pay £1,000 in fines and court charges after he was prosecuted by Manchester city council for breaching equality laws.

He also faces the possibility of losing his licence.

Father-of-five Neil Eastwood, who was left severely sight impaired after an accident in 2005, said he was left ‘annoyed, embarrassed and ashamed’.

Under the Equalities Act 2010, blind people cannot be refused access or service – or given substandard access or service – simply because they have a guide dog.

Council chiefs fear many cases go unreported and urged anyone in a similar situation to come forward so investigations can be launched and action taken through the courts.

Mr Eastwood, 56, from Wythenshawe, served in Northern Ireland with the 1st Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, during the seventies.

He’s now an active member of the charity Blind Veterans UK and spoke out to raise awareness and urge other guide dog users to report any similar issues they suffer.

Osayande, 56, of Chatwell Close, Salford, had been sent to collect him from his son’s house in Wythenshawe in February and take him to a hotel in Altrincham.

Mr Eastwood, who relies on Lenny his golden labrador retriever, said: “I rang the office and told them that I had a guide dog and told them to make sure that the driver was aware.

“The company by mistake sent two taxis and they both came almost simultaneously. I approached the first one that I saw come in. He had his window down and shouted ’sorry, I am not taking you’. He said that he would not take my dog.

“I told him that he was a working guide dog but he said he did not care.”

Mr Eastwood quoted the law but Osayande, who holds a hackney carriage licence with Rossendale council but was working for a local private hire firm, refused to take them.

He reported the matter to the council after the second taxi took him back to his hotel.

Mr Eastwood said: “It is a life-knocking experience that really should not be an issue in this day and age. I want to praise the council for their hard work in this case. The message has got to go out to other councils that they should always take action in these cases.

“It happens all the time all over the country and we shouldn’t tolerate it. Drivers could simply put down a cheap blanket in a footwell – it’s that simple.

“Most taxi companies are brilliant but this does happen and far too often. I want guide dog users to know they have options. They should know that it must not be tolerated and above all, these things shouldn’t stop them from going out.”

Taxi drivers can apply for exemptions if for example they can prove they are allergic to dog hair. The council said Osayande was invited to an interview to discuss the incident but failed to attend then didn’t attend Manchester magistrates’ court.

He was found guilty in his absence of refusing to carry an assistance dog under section 168 of the Equality Act 2010, fined £500 with costs of £500 and a £50 surcharge.

Councillor Nigel Murphy said: “Assistance dogs are indispensable for many people with visual impairments allowing them a level of independence that might otherwise be impossible – so it is vital that both hackney and private hire vehicles allow passengers with assistance dogs.

“I hope the severity of this fine reminds all drivers of their responsibilities.”

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

Should taxi driver vetting be toughened up in the wake of Rotherham sex abuse scandal?

Vera Baird

North East police chiefs and council leaders are calling on the Government to do more to protect taxi passengers

Crime chiefs and politicians have called on the Government to ensure that more protection is offered to taxi passengers from potential sex attackers.

It follows the Rotherham child abuse scandal and that in South Ribble, Lancashire, in which victims were ferried round by cabbies, some of who hadn’t been properly vetted.

A letter – signed by Vera Baird QC, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, Steve Ashman, Chief Constable for Northumbria Police, and the six council leaders who cover Tyne and Wear and Northumberland – has been sent to Transport Minister Chris Grayling.

In it they urged him to make the system of issuing taxi licences more open and transparent.

Currently, they say, it is possible for a private hire or hackney carriage driver to be refused a licence by one local authority only to be granted a licence by another.

Also, local authorities can issue a licence if they are satisfied an applicant is a “fit and proper” person.

However, there is no definition or criteria to what a “fit and proper” person should be.

Ms Baird said: “Rotherham has shown the importance of getting this issue right.

“We have to do all that we can to safeguard and protect vulnerable young people and adults. We are sending a clear message to government, they need to get the rules around issuing taxi licences sorted.

“There is only one chance to get it right and in the interests of safeguarding, no-one with a sexual or indecency offence should be driving a taxi. The Government needs to get this sorted, quickly and the North East stands ready to lead the way in delivering change in this area – but we can’t do it without the Government.”

The letter also urges Mr Grayling to review and update the guidelines as to what sort of criminal offences will be of particular concern when considering fitness and lengths of time whereby an applicant should be free of conviction.

All those who signed the letter said that regulations should make sure anyone with a sexual or indecency offence should be refused a licence, which is not the case at present.

Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “As a group we will always come together to do whatever it takes to keep local residents safe. “It is ludicrous that taxis licence rules set by Government are open to different interpretation by different local authorities.

“This needs tightened up, the same rules should be applied in every area – then we will all have confidence in the rules being used to grant licences.”

The letter to Mr Grayling includes a recommendation that there should be a national database, similar to the Disclosure and Barring Service, of all applicants who have applied for a licence, using a national framework and the reasons for any refusal should be included on the database.

This would allow quick and easy access to local authority staff to see if previous applications have been made and the reasons for refusal.

A Government spokesperson said: “The Government is already leading work with the taxi and private hire vehicle sector to reduce the risks posed to children, young people and vulnerable adults from sexual exploitation by that very small number of drivers who seek to abuse their position of trust.

“Proposals under the Policing and Crime Bill will give Government the power to issue statutory guidance to local authorities so that their taxi and PHV licensing ensures the safeguarding of vulnerable passengers. This will be subject to public consultation.”

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

250 Derby taxi drivers get licenced in LANCASHIRE – to avoid local knowledge test

The Derby Telegraph reports that more than 250 Derby taxi drivers have registered in a town in Lancashire where they do not have to take a “knowledge” test.

A total of 254 people with Derby addresses are officially licensed in Rossendale, 103 miles away. There are 1,500 taxi drivers licensed with Derby City Council.

Rossendale Borough Council said it has handed out the licenses to people with Derby addresses since the start of 2013.

Derby City Council said it is powerless to stop drivers with licences handed out by other authorities from working in Derby because of a loophole in the law.

To obtain a Derby licence, drivers must first pass a knowledge test, which looks at their expertise in getting around the city, before they are awarded their badge. But some other councils do not require drivers to take the test.

Mark Keenan, managing director of Derby-based taxi firm Western Cars, believes this is the reason people are travelling further afield to gain their qualifications. He said: “Out-of-town councils should stop issuing licences for people who aren’t going to work in the area, it needs looking at.

“It drops standards and gives the trade a bad name, everyone gets tarred under the same brush. I find it very unfortunate for the drivers in Derby who have gone through what they have to go through with the knowledge test and proving their ability.”

Currently, the law allows anyone with a Hackney Carriage (taxi) licence to operate as a private hire car anywhere in the country. Taxis can pick up passengers anywhere but private hire cars have to be pre-booked by law.

Mr Keenan said drivers from Derby have, in the past, applied for a licence from the city council, failed the knowledge test and then obtained their licence elsewhere. He said this had happened in areas such as Erewash, Derbyshire Dales, Gedling, in Nottinghamshire, East Staffordshire and South Yorkshire, as well as Rossendale.

When asked if the knowledge test in Derby was too difficult, Mr Keenan said: “No it’s not, 1,500 drivers in Derby have managed to pass so it can’t be that difficult. This has been going on for the best part of three years, now. We [Western Cars] made a decision that we would not have any vehicles or drivers on our books who had not taken the tests. We never have and that’s because some of these out-of-town vehicles don’t meet the standards that our vehicles do.

“I have people come to me for a job with other licences and I say, ‘Pass your Derby test and come back to me’.”

Not only is the city council powerless to prevent drivers from other areas working in Derby but it also has no jurisdiction to stop their vehicles for safety inspections. That, Mr Keenan says, is something that needs to be combated by a change in the law from central government.

Brian Yasin, part-time driver and consultant for Albatross Cars in Derby, agreed there was a problem that threatened to drop the standard of taxi services in Derby. He said: “Some of the other councils were throwing out badges like confetti. I know drivers with Rossendale badges who work in London.

“I have been driving a taxi for 17 years and I don’t use a sat-nav even now. When I started, I learnt my job but a lot of drivers now just use a GPS and don’t know the roads.” Mr Yasin holds workshops for drivers in an attempt to increase their knowledge of driving in the city.

Jamal Rashid, 25, also works as a private hire driver for Albatross. He said: “The cars are not insured to be used in Derby. Although the law allows them to do it, the insurance is given to them because the companies think they are driving in the area where they get their licences. It’s a big problem.”

Rossendale Borough Council said it introduced an “intended use policy” as part of its application process in an attempt to prevent out-of-town drivers gaining licences from the authority. A spokeswoman said: “Once a vehicle has been licensed as a hackney carriage it is a hackney carriage for the duration of that licence, wherever it is currently located, and can therefore be used for pre-booked purposes in any district in England and Wales.

“Additionally, it is not an offence for a licenced private hire operator to take bookings and then dispatch a hackney carriage licenced by a district which is different from that which licences the operator – a hackney carriage can lawfully be used for pre-booked work outside its district.”

Councillor Baggy Shanker, responsible for taxi licencing in Derby, said the council was aware drivers had been gaining qualifications in Rossendale. He said the council had been working with both Gedling and Rossendale councils in order reduce the number of out-of-town taxis operating in Derby. He said a “local knowledge test” had been introduced in Gedling and officers from Rossendale had visited the city to conduct spot checks.

Labour councillor Mr Shanker said: “Rossendale has agreed to carry out joint enforcement exercises and one such joint exercise has been conducted, during which five out of six vehicles licensed in their area had their licenses suspended. It is hoped that more such exercises will be undertaken in the future.”

The Department for Transport sets taxi licensing laws for England and Wales. A spokesman said: “There are currently no plans to introduce standardised licensing criteria. Excluding Hackney Carriages from obtaining a fare for a return journey to the area in which they are licensed would diminish the availability of Hackney Carriages or restrict the areas in which they would be willing to carry passengers.

“We are currently considering all recommendations in the Law Commission’s report which included national standards and will formally respond in due course.”

EXAMPLES OF TAXI LICENCE TEST QUESTIONS FOR APPLICANTS IN DERBY

Derby City Council knowledge test:

    •1. Where are the following located?

For example The Council House – answer would be Corporation Street.

    •2. Describe the route you would take with a fare between the following locations including road names and direction turns, roundabouts, exits.

McDonalds (Ashbourne Road) to Seymours Bar

    •3.Describe how you would proceed to these locations from the city centre and the roads you would use.

Belper

Rossendale Borough Council does not offer such a test. Applicants must only pass a basic skills test which, the authority says, involves “maths and English (BKSB Level 1 Functional Skills assessments) tests, together with customer service, licensing policy and child sexual exploitation awareness training”.

Read more at http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/

Rossendale taxi licence applications facing backlog until next year

All private hire and hackney cab drivers are now required to pass a basic skills test

Prospective taxi drivers are having to wait until 2017 before they can pass a ‘basic skills test’ to get them on the roads, we can reveal.

Under new rules all new private hire and hackney drivers are required to complete a basic skills test, and Rossendale licensing bosses are only accepting new applications from those who have passed.

However, new drivers are now being told they have to wait until 2017 to take the test – despite many having already completed the other mandatory requirements.

A spokesperson for Rossendale council said the test is allocated on a “first come first served basis” and due to the level of demand is booked up until January 2017.

They said: “We do urge applicants to apply in the area in which they live and, or intend to work and to have in mind current and proposed policy requirements before proceeding to book a test slot.”

IT consultant Mohammed Khan has complained to the council after his brother-in-law was told he would have to wait until January 6 to take his test.

Mr Khan said: “They’ve implemented this for new drivers but haven’t provided enough adequate provision to enable people to get this test. It’s ridiculous that they only run the assessments Monday and Friday for less than three hours.

“This is a good requirement but they haven’t put the required resources for the assessments.”

The skills test was introduced as part of new policies cracking down on the trade following continuing criticism from other boroughs of the standards of thousands of Rossendale taxis operating outside the Valley.

Taxi drivers from Rossendale protested against licensing changes last month.

Rossendale Taxi Association member Glen Bulcock said it’s causing “a lot of strife” in the trade.

He added: “We pointed out these pitfalls but were ignored. Now people are out of work while they’re waiting for badges.”

Coun Steve Hughes, chairman of the licensing committee, said the situation was not “ideal” but its purpose was to ‘raise standards’ across the trade.

He said: “It’s a difficult situation to control given the numbers we have had come through and the demands on the service. It’s caused a backlog. It’s not an ideal situation that people have to wait so long. We know of the problem, we are just trying to work through it.”

However, he added: “It’s a need to raise the standards and taxis within Rossendale. It’s not necessarily about reducing the number of taxis. Although that is a consideration this is about improving the quality of the taxi service.”

A proposal to extend the requirement to pass a basic skills test to driver licence renewals is currently being consulted on.

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

‘Sadiq Khan is discriminating against our drivers’

Uber has called again on its customers to complain en masse to London mayor Sadiq Khan over a package of reforms affecting the taxi sector.

The San Francisco-based ride-hailing app developer has even gone as far as branding the plans “discriminatory” and particularly harmful for its many drivers born outside the UK, reports The Guardian.

Khan has outlined a series of policy measures, including £65m in grants for black cab drivers who replace older cars with less polluting vehicles.

The plans will also mean that by 2020 there will be 20 new taxi ranks and that from this year black cabs will have new rights to drive in an additional 20 bus lanes.

Khan also confirmed he will go ahead with proposals to introduce onerous English language tests for minicab drivers, including a written exam. These are currently the subject of a legal challenge by Uber.

Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber in London, said: “While black cabs will get £65m from the taxpayer, the Mayor is piling extra costs and red tape onto licensed private hire drivers.

“This plan will cost drivers who use Uber hundreds of pounds and thousands may lose their livelihoods as a result. Fewer drivers will mean longer waiting times for passengers.”

Elvidge added: “Many drivers who use Uber are immigrants. They work hard to look after themselves and their families. Driving has given them an opportunity to integrate into their local community.

“The mayor should be supporting these drivers, not penalising them.”

Khan said: “Our new taxi and private-hire action plan will help us deliver a truly world-class service for Londoners and create a vibrant taxi and private-hire market where all providers can continue to flourish.

“From my first day at City Hall I have been determined to drive up standards and improve safety for every passenger in London, while protecting the future of our iconic black cabs that provide a unique and invaluable service for Londoners.”

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