Refused taxi ride because of guide dog

Paralympic double gold medal winner Libby Clegg, 26, suffers from Stargardt disease, a rare inherited condition that leads to the loss of central

TAXI drivers in Loughborough have left a Paralympic double gold medal winner stranded on the side of the road – because they didn’t want her guide dog in the car.

And the shocking incident hasn’t happened just once, but seven times at least.

Rio Olympian Libby Clegg, 26, suffers from Stargardt disease, a rare inherited condition that leads to the loss of central vision, that will eventually lead to a complete loss of sight.

And speaking to the Echo she says that on at least seven occasions in the last two years, taxi drivers in Loughborough have just driven off and left her and her guide dog Hatti, waiting for help.

Sometimes she has been left standing at Loughborough train station for half an hour waiting for a taxi with cabs just driving off.

This has also happened to her at least 20 times in London.

Libby, who lives in Loughborough, won gold medals in both the T11 100m and T11 200m sprints at the 2016 Rio Olympic games.

She told the Echo: “It is just ignorant, and I am just left absolutely shocked sometimes because I can’t believe what has just happened.

“Some people just don’t think dogs should be in the car, but it still isn’t an excuse to just drive off and leave someone stranded waiting for a taxi

“I think the best advice to anyone who has had similar difficulties to myself is to stay strong.

“I have learned that you really need to be able to speak up about issues like this.

“People need to know just how annoying and upsetting it can be when simple things like being able to get a taxi are made harder by ignorant and rude taxi drivers.

“I have sometimes admitted defeat and just walked home late at night.

“I really feel that sometimes it is just Hatti that is discriminated against, but also sometimes I definitely take it personally, just because I have a visual impairment doesn’t make me different to anyone else.

“Some taxi drivers are really helpful, and really good, but I have had too many bad experiences now that I just prefer to use my own private one.

“Hatti is part of my family now, I have had her for two years, but also she is a working dog, she is clean and very well trained, so I just don’t understand why people still have this stigma and won’t take myself and her in the car.”

Libby is an ambassador for the charity Guide Dogs and Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan recently attended an event run by the charity in Parliament, to show her support for a move that taxi drivers should receive disability equality training when getting their licence.

Mrs Morgan told the Echo: “I think it is outrageous that this has been happening, and it just shows that the call for the equality training is real.

“It is very worrying to hear from so many people who have been illegally turned away from taxis because they travel with an assistance dog.”

http://www.loughboroughecho.net/

Uber’s York licence to be reviewed, as complaints log is revealed

UBER drivers are coming from Leeds, Bradford and London to work in York, according to a council report.

City of York Council has received 72 complaints about Uber’s vehicles and drivers since the app-based service was allowed to operate in the city four months ago.

A union representing local drivers has now urged city leaders to rescind Uber’s licence, when it comes up for renewal later this month.

The company operates in 536 countries and works by customers ordering a taxi to their location on their smartphone.

It has proved controversial in other UK cities and York is no exception.

Thirty one complaints have been made about vehicles coming into the city from elsewhere, however investigations found 24 of the complaints were unfounded or could not be fully investigated due to insufficient evidence.

A council report said drivers of vehicles licensed by authorities in Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees and London appeared to have chosen to work in York.

Uber was reported 23 times for plying for hire – the process of a private hire car picking up passengers who flag them down instead of booking them – but 22 cases were deemed unfounded or could not be pursued.

Picking up people illegally means passengers would not be insured if the driver was involved in a crash.

Other complaints range from Uber cars not having the correct door signs and licence plates to no insurance and smoking in the cab.

Councillors will meet next week to discuss renewing the firm’s licence, which expires on Christmas Eve, but is facing strong calls from the GMB union to rescind it.

GMB, the trade union for Hackney and Private Hire drivers, met with Rachael Maskell MP, for York Central, on Friday.

Bill Chard, speaking on behalf of the GMB’s Professional Drivers’ Section, said: “These drivers have no connection with, and are not controlled or managed by City of York Council.

“GMB calls upon the council to withdraw Uber’s licence as they have proved that they are neither fit nor capable of operating safely in the city.

“GMB would like the council to confirm whether Uber’s operating licence was given on the basis of six licensed vehicles.”

A spokesman for Uber said: “Uber is fully licensed in York and abides by the same rules and regulations as other operators in the City.

“Uber is also licensed in surrounding areas and licensed private-hire drivers are not restricted from carrying out bookings in other areas provided the operator, driver and vehicle are properly licensed. Uber only uses licensed drivers and vehicles under its operating licences, and therefore such bookings are not illegal.

“York licensed drivers booked by other York private hire operators are also able to carry out booking in other areas, for instance picking up bookings from Selby.”

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

Minibus taxi safeguarding loophole must be fixed, councils urge

A “worrying” loophole that allows people to drive members of the public in minibuses without having a criminal record check must be solved by urgently updating taxi licensing laws, councils warned today.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils, says the safeguarding flaw is a huge loophole which is putting the public at an increased risk of harm, including those who may be more vulnerable after a night out.

Under current laws, drivers of Public Carriage Vehicles (PCVs) – those seating between nine and sixteen passengers – are licensed by the DVLA but are not subject to a criminal record check.

This contrasts with councils whose licensing of taxis – both hackney carriages and private hire vehicles (minicab) – requires drivers to produce an up-to-date enhanced criminal record check. Councils have the power to refuse or revoke a licence if a driver has convictions or cautions, or has behaved in a way that they believe renders the driver a risk to the public.

The loophole means that drivers refused a taxi or minicab licence, or whose licence has been revoked by councils, are obtaining a PCV licence and then continuing to operate in the same area – sometimes working for the same company. The drivers are effectively operating as licensed drivers by transporting members of the public around in larger vehicles, despite not having had the same checks or being deemed not ‘fit and proper’ to do so by the council.

The LGA says the loophole is undermining work to safeguard taxi passengers and is urging the Government to amend the law to ensure that 9-16 seater vehicles are licensed by councils in line with the requirements for taxis and minicabs. The Law Commission made recommendations on this in its 2014 report into taxi licensing, but the Government has yet to respond to the report or introduce a taxi reform Bill.

Examples of drivers who continue to drive members of the public despite councils determining that they pose a risk to passengers include:

A taxi driver whose licence was revoked following a conviction for harassment and further allegations of harassment and inappropriate conduct with a child was granted a PCV licence.

A taxi driver whose licence was refused for issues relating to misconduct – mainly with young female and vulnerable passengers – was granted a PCV licence within six months, working for the same company.

A taxi driver whose licence was revoked for inappropriate conduct with two young female passengers – specifically using data from booking and dispatch records to call and text them from his mobile phone – is working for the same taxi company as a PCV driver.

A man who, after being refused a taxi licence twice, drove his car through the barrier of the site where the councils’ officers were based in order to confront them, is now driving a 16-seat minibus taxi.

As larger minibus taxis become more commonplace, the LGA says that it is vital that the public receives the same level of protection regardless of whether they are using a standard sized taxi, minicab or minibus.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“The majority of PCV drivers will be people who the public can trust, but this loophole provides an opportunity for unscrupulous drivers to continue to work in close proximity to passengers, even when a council has determined that they are not safe to do so.

“Anyone who books or flags down a standard taxi has the reassurance that all drivers are vetted and licensed by councils. The same safeguarding checks should apply to anyone driving a nine to 16-seat minibus

“Larger minibuses are often sent in place of a regular taxi to pick up individuals or small parties, purely because they are nearest to the pick-up point rather than because there is a requirement for such a large vehicle. They are used to take groups of children to school, or to drive groups home after nights out.

“It is therefore extremely worrying that councils’ proactive work to protect taxi passengers from harm – and particularly those who may be most vulnerable – is being undermined by this loophole.

“We are urging the Government to act quickly to address this and bring PCVs into line with other local taxi licensing requirements.

“Two-and-a-half years after the Law Commission’s report into taxi licensing, this issue shows why it is vital that the Government introduces a Taxi Reform Bill to address this and the many other anomalies hindering our taxi licensing system.”

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

Bristol: Taxi drivers filmed turning away disabled passengers

Taxi drivers in Bristol are breaking the law by turning away some disabled passengers, an ITV investigation has found.

The City Council says it will launch an inquiry after we filmed hackney drivers telling a woman in a wheelchair they couldn’t give her a lift.

Kate Sweetman, who uses an electric wheelchair because she has multiple sclerosis, missed a concert after travelling from her home in Chippenham to Bristol because no hackney cab could take her to the venue.

ITV West Country filmed with her in Bristol city centre as four out of five drivers she approached said they were unable to help:

Reasons they gave included the size of her chair or weight restrictions on their vehicles. One didn’t have suitable ramps to get Kate into the back of the vehicle. Kate says her chair is no wider than a manually operated one.

“It makes you feel like a second-class citizen,” she said. “It smacks your disability in your face. Everywhere should be suitable for anybody to use. Your human right should be for you to use anything the same as anybody else.”

The chair of the Public Safety and Protection Committee, Cllr Sultan Khan Chair, told us drivers were committing a criminal offence by not taking Kate.

“They shouldn’t be doing that,” he added. “We can suspend their licence, we can revoke it if necessary. The bottom line is the hackney vehicles are wheelchair accessible and nothing can prevent them from taking passengers, whatever their disability.”

He said the local authority would be investigating the findings and reviewing its policies. It also intends to carry out undercover spot-checks.
The City Council issues just under 1,000 hackney cab licences in Bristol.

The Bristol Disability Equality Forum told us Kate’s experience was ‘depressingly common’.

source: http://www.itv.com/

Uber driver used as courier in drugs bust

A former rugby star was convicted after copying the hit TV show Breaking Bad to rake in hundreds of thousands of pounds by cooking crystal meth.

Lorenzo Bocchini, 36, set up a hi-tech drugs laboratory in his luxurious Little Venice home, where police recovered £300,000 of drugs, £33,000 cash and a stun gun.

Crystal meth at the flat was found to have been dyed blue — the colour of a narcotic created by fictional drug baron Walter White in Breaking Bad.

Bocchini’s brother Alessandro, 43, was arrested along with his wife Justine, 36, in the same police operation eight months earlier at their Bayswater home.

Officers recovered crystal meth, MDMA and £12,210 in cash. The couple pleaded guilty to a string of drugs offences, including possession with intent to supply crystal meth, the designer drug mephedrone, ecstasy and cocaine. They were jailed earlier for six and four years respectively.

Footage seized from CCTV inside their home showed the pair counting thousands of pounds worth of cash just hours before they were raided.

Police say the family members ran a wholesale drugs distribution network using an Uber driver as a courier to transport packages to users around London, referring to the deliveries as “T-bags”.

A financial investigation identified £100,000 of drugs money went via the couple’s bank accounts in the six months before their arrest.

In total, detectives believe they have identified millions of pounds of assets, including a flat in Dubai.

The family were targeted by detectives from Lambeth police’s Omega drugs and firearms team in a long-running surveillance and intelligence operation. Detectives had been investigating a spate of deaths from chemsex drugs such as GHB, including fatalities at a gay sauna in Vauxhall.

Today Det Con Matt Clark, who led the investigation, said: “The Bocchini family were making significant profits selling highly dangerous and addictive class A drugs. What we uncovered was the wholesale supply of crystal methlyamphetamine and other drugs, focusing on the ‘chemsex’ scene in south London.

“The use of crystal meth within this scene is hugely damaging and we believe there are strong connections to drug deaths, rape and child sexual exploitation, links which we continue to investigate.”

Alessandro was identified as a supplier of wholesale amounts of crystal meth and police raided his Bayswater house last November.

His wife Justine, the mother of two young children, told officers as the pair were held: “It was a good life.” During interviews, both denied possessing or dealing drugs and Justine claimed she just “baked cup cakes”.

However, photographic evidence from Alessandro’s phone showed a kitchen table laden with crystal meth in a preparation phase prior to sale, with a text message from him that read: “Well cooked my little chef.”

His brother Lorenzo was due to be sentenced at Southwark crown court on December 1 for drugs supply offences. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

When officers raided his rented flat in July, as well as drugs and cash they found sachets of dye used to colour the crystal meth blue in an apparent copy of the Breaking Bad series.

Police say all three offenders grew hooked on the drugs they supplied.

Det Insp Stephen Payne, of Omega squad, said the case was unusual because none of the main offenders were previously known to police.

He added: “In that sense it was like the Breaking Bad scenario. These were professional people who made a choice to go into this venture. They were not career criminals but were looking for an opportunity to make money out of nothing.

“They lived a high-roller, Breaking Bad lifestyle, not really knowing what to do with the cash. They even seemed to adopt the Breaking Bad signature of dying their crystal meth blue.”

Lorenzo Bocchini played as a prop for two Italian club sides in his career between 2000 and 2010, including for Viadana in the Heineken Cup.
In 2010 he was named by the British press as one of the players from the L’Aquila club who helped survivors when an earthquake hit the town.

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

Calls for taxi drivers to undergo disability awareness training

Research shows nearly half of guide dog owners have been illegally refused a ride in the past year because of their animal.

That’s what MPs are discussing with the introduction of a Private Members Bill by Andrew Gwynne MP that is being debated in Parliament today.

According to the Guide Dogs charity, there is an ongoing issue with guide dog owners being illegally turned away by drivers who do not want to carry their dog.

New research by the charity shows 42% of blind or visually impaired people were significantly more likely to be turned away by drivers because of their dog, while 38% of guide dog owners have been illegally asked to pay an extra fare for carrying their dog.

The charity said being discriminated against in this way is not only distressing, it can also stop people who are living with sight-loss do everyday things that most people take for granted.

Rosemary Howell, 28, is visually impaired and lives in rural Cambridgeshire.

She told Sky News she had been refused by three different taxi drivers because they did not want to take her dog, Una, who she has had for about two years.

The drivers had been given disability training but she said the experience left her feeling vulnerable and she would like there to be tougher penalties.

She said: “Even when I got in a taxi they didn’t seem that bothered and I felt very unwanted.

“Why should I have to be different from everyone else just because I have a disability and I have something that will help me?

“Taxi drivers need educating because then they might have a bit more empathy with service users who have guide dogs or assistance dogs because they understand that dog needs to go with the owner in the front.

“A lot of taxi companies say you have to have the dog in the boot, and you can’t have that because it has to go with the owner.

“If education is there to teach these people this is the law and this is what service dogs are, I think life for a disabled person will be a lot easier.”

Both the Licensed Private Hire Car Association and the National Taxi Association are backing the bill while Transport for London, which looks after 35% of England & Wales’ licensed vehicles, is introducing mandatory disability equality training for drivers.

Uber says any driver who refuses to take a guide dog will permanently lose access to its app and risks losing their licence.

source: http://news.sky.com/

Commons Questions: Tourism Action Plan

Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, in reference to page 11 of the Tourism Action Plan, published in August 2016, whether deregulating an element of private hire vehicle licences will be carried out through primary legislation.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The deregulation of private hire vehicles licensing where transportation is an ancillary element of the service provided will require primary legislation.

Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, in reference to page 11 of the Tourism Action Plan, published in August 2016, what assessment his Department has made of the effect on consumer safety of deregulating an element of private hire vehicle licences for owners of hotels to collect visitors from ports of entry.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Department for Transport is working with other departments including the Home Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to consider how common sense regulation can be introduce where transport is an ancillary element of the service provided. Consumer safety remains the primary concern.

Uber driver murdered wife

Jose Leonardo was found guilty of murder
Jose Leonardo was found guilty of murder

Jose Leonardo, 56, knifed mum-of-three Maria Mbombo, 52, multiple times then left her to die at their home

An Uber driver who knifed his wife to death after googling “the most painful place to stab someone” has been convicted of her murder .

Jose Leonardo, 56, stabbed Maria Mbombo, 52, multiple times at their home in Belsize Park, west London, in May.

The mum-of-three died at the scene, a trial at the Old Bailey heard.

Prosecutor John Price QC said there was no dispute that Leonardo killed her , but he has claimed it was manslaughter by “loss of control”.

The taxi driver was found guilty of one count of murder, but cleared of one charge of perverting the course of justice.

The couple met in Holland in 1988 and moved to north-west London in 1993.

At the time of her death, Ms Mbombo was working as a cleaner while the defendant was a driver for the internet-based company Uber.

Shortly before midnight on May 18, the couple’s 23-year-old son Carl dialled 999 in tears.

Paramedics arrived to find him trying to resuscitate his mother on the floor of a bedroom.

The victim, who was wearing a white top and black knickers, was covered in blood and had been dead for “some while”, Mr Price said.

She had been alone with the defendant until her children returned home shortly before the 999 call, the court heard.

Maria Mbombo was knifed to death

Earlier that afternoon, the defendant’s mobile phone was used to search Google for “can I survive stab in the eye” and “most painful place to stab someone”.

The defendant was in his flat with his dead or dying wife for an hour or so as his other son Jacques, 27, banged on the door and screamed to get in.

After slipping out, Leonardo tried to buy a bottle of beer in a nearby convenience store but was refused.

The shopkeeper noticed blood on his jacket and asked “what’s that?” and Leonardo allegedly replied: “Just call the police.”

Officers arrived to find Leonardo wearing a white vest drenched in blood and murmuring “my wife is dead”.

Mr Price told jurors: “For all his statements of grief to the police officers at the hospital, the defendant, who will have been with her in their home whilst she slowly died, did nothing to summon help.”

Leonardo will be sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey at 10am on Tuesday, with his minimum term to be determined.

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

Commons Questions

Taxis: Licensing

Department for Transport written question – answered on 7th November 2016.

Royston Smith Conservative, Southampton, Itchen

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what powers local authorities possess to effectively regulate private hire vehicles that operate outside of their primary licensing area.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Local licensing authorities in England and Wales have a duty to ensure that any person or organisation to whom they grant a PHV operator’s licence is ‘fit and proper’ to hold such a licence. The same duty is required when granting a PHV driver licence. Furthermore, once a licence has been issued, licensing authorities should have systems in place, including links with the police and other licensing authorities, to ensure that drivers and operators continue to be ‘fit and proper’.

All PHV bookings, including those received by a sub-contracting arrangement, must be fulfilled by licensed PHV operators using licensed drivers and vehicles, all of whom have met their local licensing standards. The original operator who takes the booking will retain responsibility for the journey, and both the original operator and the operator who fulfils the booking will be under a duty to keep records of the booking and the relevant enforcement authorities will be able to check those records.

The sharing of information between licensing authorities is encouraged and the licence issuing authority can investigate complaints against a driver regardless of where the driver was working at the time. Local licensing authorities are also able to delegate powers to each other to help deal with issues such as taxis operating as private hire vehicles outside their licence area. For example, in Merseyside five licensing authorities have agreed a concordat allowing each other to enforce against all the vehicles and drivers licensed by the five areas.

 

Uber driver ‘murdered his wife after Googling “what is the most painful place to stab someone”‘

Jose Leonardo repeatedly knifed 52 year-old Maria Mbombo in the body and arms, jurors heard

AN UBER driver murdered his wife after searching on Google for ‘the most painful place to stab someone’, a court heard today.

Jose Leonardo repeatedly knifed 52 year-old Maria Mbombo in the body and arms and left her to bleed to death at their family home in north London, jurors heard.

Leonardo admits killing his wife Maria Mbombo claiming he lost ‘control’

He then went to buy beer from a local shop while his two sons discovered their mother lying lifeless on the floor of the bedroom, it is claimed.

Leonardo, 56, admits killing his wife but claims he should be cleared of murder because he suffered from a ‘loss of control’, jurors were told.

But prosecutor John Price QC revealed Leonardo’s phone had been used to search Google a few hours before the murder.

One read ‘can I survive stab in the eye’ and the other was ‘most painful place to stab someone’, the Old Bailey heard.

Websites related to these search terms were accessed between 2.41pm and 2.46pm.

Half an hour later Leonardo accessed a Camden Council parking permit website.

Mrs Mbombo, who worked as a cleaner, is last known to have used her phone to speak to a friend at 3.52pm.

Both her and Leonardo’s phones stopped being active from around 5pm.

Mr Price said: “Maria Mbombo died in her home at her husband’s hand.

“He attacked her and stabbed her many times with a knife.

“Because of the wounds he inflicted upon her, she bled to death. He was alone with her in their home while that happened.

“The prosecution allege that this is a clear case of murder.”

The couple met in 1988 and move to the UK from the Netherlands in 1990 with their two sons Carl, now 23, and Jacque, 27.

On 18 May this year Jacque returned to the family flat at Chestnut House, Maitland Park Villas, Belsize Park, to find the lights out and the door locked from the inside.

He got no answer despite buzzing and kicking the door and shouting ‘Open the Door’.

Mr Price said Leonardo must have been inside with his dead or dying wife at the time.

Leonardo left the flat an hour later without speaking to his sons and both Jacque and Carl ran inside to find their mother lying on her back on the bedroom floor.

She was wearing a white top and black knickers, her face was purple and she was not breathing.

Paramedics were called at 11.55pm and arrived to find her cold to the touch with rigor mortis in the jaw.

“It was confirmed she was dead and indeed must have been dead for some time,” said Mr Price.

Leonardo, who had cuts to his wrist, was arrested near the Super Choice Convenience Store in Queens Crescent after midnight.

He told officers: “My wife is killed.”

Leonardo, of Maitland Park Villas, Belsize Park, denies murder and perverting the course of justice.

The trial continues.

source: https://www.thesun.co.uk/