A TORQUAY taxi driver has had his licence suspended for three months and been ordered to go on an anger management course following an ‘unprecedented’ five complaints in four months about his conduct.
The complaints about Rodney Woolacott’s behaviour while on duty were made between December 2 last year and April 3, and related to him losing his temper or being rude, and on occasions becoming aggressive.
Torbay Council’s licensing sub-committee met on Thursday to determine whether the 68-year-old remained a ‘fit and proper person’ to hold a council licence.
Environmental health manager Steve Cox said: “It’s not appropriate for a taxi driver who’s licensed by the council and therefore represents the council to be losing his temper with the frequency the allegations would suggest.
“To have five complaints against a taxi driver in such a short period of time is unprecedented. There’s a pattern forming and it’s not acceptable. They are allegations – but there are five of them.”
One of the incidents was partially captured on CCTV and some footage was shown at the meeting.
Mr Woolacott’s counsel Scott Horner told the meeting: “While Mr Woolacott denies many of the things that were alleged, he accepts these altercations shouldn’t be happening and are regrettable.
“Clearly he isn’t going to receive any customer service prizes this year from the council. He realises he can be somewhat abrupt in his manner. He enjoys banter with his customers and sometimes jokes can be taken in the wrong way.
“I suggest it comes down to Mr Woolacott standing his ground and being firm and not accepting the behaviour that taxi drivers are sometimes subjected to.”
Mr Horner also said that Mr Woolacott’s step-daughter had been seriously unwell and this might have affected his behaviour as he ‘had things on his mind’.
He added: “He has been professionally driving all his life. He has some health difficulties but passes his health test every year to drive his taxi. He’s not the sort of man who takes this lightly and has been co-operative throughout this process. He very much wants to work. He doesn’t want to rely on state handouts which would be the consequence of a loss of licence.”
Mr Woolacott told the committee that he had been driving taxis in Torbay for three and a half years, and prior to that he had last driven a taxi 20 years ago. He had also driven buses in Devon, fire engines in London and lorries and coaches all over Europe.
The committee decided to suspend his licence for three months and ordered him to complete an anger management course. Mr Woolacott was told that if he proved he had completed an appropriate course within two months, the suspension would be reduced to two months.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Woolacott told the Herald Express: “I’m not pleased because I think it’s been exaggerated. But I’ll have to do the course as I’m out of work now.”
Even after the knife was wrestled from Tanveer Ahmed’s grip he began punching, kicking and stamping on his victim – despite repeated pleas to stop by those around him
Tanveer Ahmed has confessed to the killing of Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah
An Uber driver drove 200miles to stab popular Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah to death in a heated argument over religion.
Even after the knife was wrestled from his grip he began punching, kicking and stamping on his victim, a court heard – despite repeated pleas to stop by those around him.
And when his vicious, murderous attack was over he calmly walked to a nearby bus shelter and sat “in prayer” waiting for the police to arrive, the court heard.
Uber taxi driver Tanveer Ahmed, 32, admits murdering Mr Shah, a 40-year-old Ahmadi Muslim, who ran a convenience store in the city.
The High Court in Glasgow heard today that Ahmed claimed Mr Shah had “disrespected the prophet of Islam, the messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.”
Horrific CCTV footage shown to court today showed Ahmed, from Bradford, arriving at the shop at about 9pm in the evening.
The judge was told Mr Shah’s family wanted the video shown – but they were not in court because of fears for their own security and they did not want to see his killer.
The footage shows how shortly after arriving Ahmed swiftly got involved in a fierce row with Mr Shah – who had been serving customers – said to be “intense” and in Urdu.
The court heard that Ahmed – a Muslim – believed Mr Shah claimed to be a prophet.
The killer was said to have attempted and failed to “persuade Mr Shah to his point of view”.
Ahmed can then be seen – on CCTV shown to the jury and members of the public sat in the gallery – reaching into his robes, pulling out a knife and moving round the counter to attack Mr Shah.
Mr Shah’s colleague Stephen McFadyen rushed from the back of the shop where he had been working and tried to intervene but Mr Shah was repeatedly stabbed in the head and body, with the blows continuing as he fled into the street.
Mr Shah’s brother Athar, a personal trainer who had been in the basement, rushed upstairs and dragged his injured brother away before trying to fend off the killer with the only weapon available – an advertising sign in the street outside the shop.
Mr McFadyen meanwhile bravely grabbed the knife from Ahmed and hid it in nearby bushes.
Their pleas for Ahmed to stop were ignored as he continued to punch, kick and stamp Mr Shah “with full force”.
Ahmed then walked calmly to a nearby bus shelter where he sat with his head bowed “as if in prayer”.
Advocate depute Iain McSporran told the court the pair conversed “intensely” in Urdu.
“His demeanour and gestures are at least consistent with his account that he was attempting to persuade the shopkeeper to his point of view,” he said.
“From what we can see of Mr Shah, he is responding but not apparently agreeing with the accused.
“The accused, having apparently not received the response he was looking for, reaches into the robes he is wearing and removes a knife with which he attacks Asad Shah, moving behind the counter to do so.
“Stephen McFadyen, who was working nearby in the shop, approaches and attempts to assist but the incident is fast moving and he is unable to prevent the attack, involving repeated stab wounds aimed at the head and upper body, continuing.”
He then moved to when the attack spilled outside.
“Athar Shah makes a valiant but vain attempt to fend off the attacker, wielding an advertising sign as the only available weapon but without effect,” Mr McSporran continued.
“Whilst the attack continued, with the accused kneeling on the victim, pinning him to the ground, Stephen McFadyen bravely reached for the knife and grabbed it from the accused, running across the road and placing it in bushes out of harm’s way.
“The accused then began punching, kicking and stamping with full force on the prone body of Asad Shah, who was long past being in any position to defend himself.
“Many blows were delivered to his head and face, despite Athar’s repeated pleas for him to stop.
“The attack ceased suddenly and the accused walked calmly to a bus shelter nearby where he sat, head bowed as if in prayer.”
The chain of events leading up to the killing at Shah’s Newsagents and Convenience Store on Minard Road on March 24 appeared to begin two days before. At that time Ahmed had been staying with a mutual friend of Mr Shah in Glasgow.
He seemed to already have an interest in his victim, asking his host whether he knew “Shah from Glasgow”.
It was at that point that Ahmed was shown for the first time Facebook posts made by Mr Shah suggesting that he was a prophet.
The killer returned to Bradford on March 23, leaving his friend with no reason to think that anything would come of the incident.
But the following day he was again driving north and during the journey used his mobile to watch a video of Mr Shah claiming to be a prophet.
The funeral of Mr Shah was held at the The Bait Ur Rahman Mosque in the West End of Glasgow
“Listen to this guy, something needs to be done, it needs nipped in the bud,” he said in a phone message at the time.
After the attack a passing GP and nurse stopped to help and Mr Shah was rushed to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital but pronounced dead on arrival – less than an hour after the killer first entered his shop.
When police found Ahmed in the nearby bus shelter, he said: “I respect what you do and I have nothing against you and so I am not going to hurt you. I have broken the law and appreciate how you are treating me.”
In court, prosecutor Iain McSporran highlighted the “brave” and “valiant” efforts of Mr McFadyen and Athar Shah, who suffered a knife wound to the neck as he defended his brother.
He said: “In particular Athar Shah, who witnessed his brother being murdered and who bears a terrible sense of guilt at what he sees, quite wrongly, as his failure to help him, has suffered greatly both mentally and physically.”
Ahmed, from Bradford in West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to murdering the respected businessman, who was described by his family as a “brilliant” man.
At an earlier hearing Ahmed declared that he killed Mr Shah in order to protect the honour of Islam.
He told his lawyer to release the unprecedented statement after appearing in court for the second time in relation to the death of Mr Shah.
In a move that left legal experts baffled, he had his lawyer read out a statement which accused Asad of showing disrespect to his religion .
It said: “Asad Shah disrespected the messenger of Islam the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Mr Shah claimed to be a Prophet.”
As explained by prosecutors, Ahmadis differ from other Muslims in their belief that the Prophet Muhammad was not the final Prophet.
The majority of Muslims believe this view is inconsistent with Islamic belief and many consider it heretical or blasphemous.
Ahmed said he murdered Mr Shah – who was granted asylum when he moved to Glasgow from Pakistan to escape violence in 1998 – not because he was an Ahmadi Muslim however, but because of specific comments he made on social media.
Evidence gathered showed Mr Shah had posted videos on Facebook and YouTube which could be seen as him claiming that he was a Prophet.
The court heard Ahmed was not motivated by malice towards Ahmadi Muslims as a group, but by his offence at Mr Shah’s comments.
The shopkeeper regularly posted messages and video clips online which the Crown said gave “little doubt that he was claiming to be a messenger of God and a prophet”.
Hours before the attack, Mr Shah had posted a Facebook message wishing all Christians a “Happy Easter”.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attended a vigil for Mr Shah
Mr Shah’s family said a person’s religion, ethnicity or race never mattered to the shopkeeper, who treated everyone with kindness and respect.
They said: “Our love for all mankind and hope for a better world in which we can all live in peace and harmony, as so emphatically embodied by Asad, will endure and prevail.
“Asad left us a tremendous gift and we must continue to honour that gift by loving and taking care of one another.”
The parents of Mr Shah said they moved to Scotland from Pakistan because “we never thought that we could be in danger here”.
As Ahmadi Muslims they said they faced religious hatred and discrimination in their homeland and sought refuge in Glasgow.
Many people enjoyed visiting Mr Shah in his store and chatting to him daily
His parents said: “We brought our children to this country to seek refuge from Pakistan in 1991 fleeing persecution, religious hatred, discrimination and a danger to our lives because we were Ahmadis.
“We never thought that we could be in danger here.
“We feel imprisoned by our pain and suffering and we have little hope of ever having a normal life again.
“Most of the family, unable to live with this turmoil, pain and fear, has taken a decision to leave Scotland forever.”
Two decades on, they said the faith-motivated stabbing of their son as he served behind the counter of the family store has brought “an immense sense of guilt” and a renewed sense of fear for their safety.
But Ahmed said his actions had nothing to do with Christianity, claiming to “love and respect” Jesus Christ.
Asad was described as a pillar of the community. A silent vigil held outside his shop 24 hours after his death was attended by hundreds of people, including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
CRIMINALS were being granted taxi licences by Derby City Council until as recently as last year, a damning report has found.
Between 2012 and 2015, expert auditors found that councillors on the authority’s Taxi Licensing Sub Committee had allowed licences to people with criminal records who had committed offences including “hate crime, harassment, intimidation and making improper comments to young women”.
In one instance, a taxi driver was granted a licence despite “publishing material threatening or intending to stir up religious/sexual hatred”.
In recent times, the auditors found that the authority had taken steps to “strengthen governance in this area”, including ensuring officers were involved in the decision-making process.
But the experts from Grant Thornton said there was evidence councillors “continue to involve themselves inappropriately in operational matters” around taxis.
The city council granted licences to criminals, the report says
The report also blasts the council for its handling of a recent Government-ordered pay review.
The Derby Telegraph had already reported how the work had cost more than £5 million to date after being beset with problems.
The review had been carried out by a company called Aquarius.
But, back in September 2014, the council’s former chief executive, Adam Wilkinson, revealed that “the previous consultants (Aquarius)” were not able to complete their work due to a “contractual issue”.
Councillor Lisa Eldret, responsible for staff matters at the city council, later revealed Aquarius was using the pay review system of a company called Hay without permission. The Aquarius work is now being redone by Hay at an additional cost of £1.2 million to the taxpayer.
Now, the auditors have said that the council had “asked” Aquarius to use the “Hay-based approach” that led to the problem.
Their report says: “It should have been clear as early as September 2013 that asking a firm other than Hay to apply a Hay-based approach would be problematic.”
The report adds that an allegedly politically-motivated decision by councillors around staff pay arrangements, made in 2013, had “meant extra costs of £3 million”.
It says that “according to officers, it was motivated by a political desire to protect refuse workers” in a bid to prevent them striking before an election, though some councillors denied this.
The council said many of the matters reported occurred some time ago and that it had already made a large number of improvements.
Council leader Ranjit Banwait, said: “I am confident many of the issues reported by our external auditors today are in the past; those issues that are more recent in nature are being reviewed and addressed – robust measures are already in place following an extensive overhaul of our governance.”
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 12 February 2016 to Question 25870, how many (a) officials and (b) other staff are working on the Government’s response to the Law Commission’s recommendations on taxi and private hire vehicle legislation.
Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
There are currently (a) three officials and (b) no other staff in the Department for Transport working on taxi and private hire vehicle policy. One of those officials works full-time on taxi and private hire vehicles, and it forms a core part of the work load of the other two. Their responsibilities include scrutiny of the Law Commission recommendations for reform of taxi and private hire vehicle legislation. This level of staffing for work on taxis and private hire vehicles remains essentially consistent with that going back to 2009/10. The Government will respond to the Law Commission report once scrutiny is complete.
Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport)
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the oral contribution of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport of 4 May 2016, Official Report, column 286, stating that the Government intends to commence sections 165 and 167 of the Equality Act 2010 in 2016, if he will also impose a statutory requirement on the driver of a private hire vehicle to accept and assist a wheelchair user and not to charge extra for providing such assistance.
Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
The Government intends to commence sections 165 and 167 of the Equality Act 2010 this year, and impose this requirement upon both Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle drivers.
Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport)
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will bring forward legislative proposals to define the term, fit and proper, for the licensing of taxi and private hire vehicle drivers.
Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
The Department for Transport currently provides Best Practice Guidance to assist with the fit and proper person test, which is the responsibility of local authorities.
A boss at a South Derbyshire minicab firm has been ordered to pay more than £1,300 for operating a private hire vehicle with an unlicensed driver.
The vehicle, which was stopped in Ashby on June 5 last year as part of an enforcement operation being conducted by North West Leicestershire District Council, was being driven by Khawar Sadaf Khan, working for Swad Cars, based on the Sharpe’s Industrial Estate off Alexandra Road, Swadlincote.
When Khan was unable to produce his licence, the case was reported to South Derbyshire District Council as the licensing authority, which established that Khan was not registered as a private hire driver in South Derbyshire.
The vehicle was, however, licensed to Mohammed Afzal, one of the operators of Swad Cars.
When interviewed under caution, Afzal admitted that Swad Cars had allowed Khan to drive the private hire vehicle and given him work without requiring him to produce his licence.
Appearing at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court, Afzal, of Branston Road, Burton, admitted knowingly operating a private hire vehicle within a controlled district with an unlicensed driver.
The 31-year-old was fined £350 and was told to pay a victim surcharge of £35, as well as costs of £1,000.
At an earlier hearing Khan, 30, of Sunnyhill Avenue, Derby, pleaded guilty by post to driving a private hire vehicle without having a current private hire licence and, in his absence, Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court fined him £300, as well as ordering him to pay £250 in costs and a £30 victim surcharge.
A South Derbyshire District Council spokesman said: “Making sure that private hire vehicles are properly licensed is part of our commitment to upholding safety standards in South Derbyshire.
“Private hire firm operators have a duty of care to their customers and must work with us to ensure they are meeting this requirement.”
The Lancashire Evening Post tells of an under-fire council that is to re-examine the case of a taxi driver whose licence was renewed despite two convictions for assaulting a disabled child in the back of his cab.
The probe is the latest embarrassment for South Ribble whose handling of other taxi child abuse allegations hit the headlines last month and is now the subject of an independent inquiry.
The father of a profoundly autistic boy has this week lodged a formal complaint with the authority after discovering the cabbie, who twice tied his son up on the way to school, is still driving for a private hire firm in Leyland.
Records show the man surrendered his licence after being convicted by magistrates. But he had it renewed weeks later by the council’s general licensing committee, whose members voted it through unanimously.
“I’m absolutely horrified,” said the dad, who cannot be identified for legal reasons. “A man could do that to a vulnerable disabled child and still be allowed to drive a taxi.
“He should never be allowed to get behind the wheel of a cab again.”
The case has come to light just two weeks after a secret report into concerns about taxi licensing at South Ribble was leaked to the media.
In it were claims that children as young as five were sexually exploited by cabbies in the borough after the council failed to run proper background checks on drivers.
Two licensing officers have been suspended by the authority for the past five months and an independent law firm has been brought in to carry out a full investigation.
But the father of the autistic boy is demanding that the cabbie who assaulted his son in November 2012, when he was 13, is finally taken off the road.
“What happened to my son was appalling and it affected his behaviour so much that he has now had to go into full-time care,” he said at home in Penwortham. “We can’t control him any more.
“He was being driven to a special school in Southport and this man, together with an escort from Lancashire County Council, used to pick him up in a morning and bring him back again later in the day.
“What we didn’t know at the time was that the cabbie was driving off, going round the corner and then getting out and strapping my son into the back seat using elasticated luggage straps, the sort you fasten your case to the roof rack with.
“When he arrived at school in Southport he would drive round the back, so no-one could see him, and then untie him.
“What beggars belief is that the escort never said a word about it. It was only when she was off work ill that a stand-in saw it happen and reported it.
“Also the deputy head teacher at the school had become suspicious and waited round the back and witnessed what was going on, with the taxi driver screaming into my son’s face.”
The matter was reported to the police and the cabbie was charged with two counts of assault. He was fined £90 by South Sefton Magistrates in August 2013 and ordered to pay the boy £50 compensation.
It is understood the driver, who had been suspended by LCC from driving schoolchildren immediately the allegations came to light, surrendered his taxi licence altogether after being convicted.
But with a matter of weeks he applied to renew it and, accompanied by a lawyer, appeared before the council’s general licensing committee in October 2013.
The eight members of the GLC, chaired by Coun John Rainsbury, heard the evidence and agreed unanimously to approve the licence renewal.
Last night Coun Rainsbury, who still chairs the committee, was unavailable for comment.
Council leader Coun Margaret Smith has announced the case will now be referred to the scrutiny committee.
“We treat these matters with the utmost concern, and are determined to ensure swift action is taken when issues are brought to our attention,” she said.
“Decisions such as these are taken by the General Licensing Committee, a cross-party group of councillors which also has legal representation, to ensure a fair hearing takes place. They make judgements based on the facts that are available to them at the time.
“However, we will refer this case to our Scrutiny Committee who will undertake a full review of the reasons behind the decision to allow this driver to keep his licence.
“Our biggest priority is to protect the public. We are currently undergoing a full review of our licensing policies.”
and procedures, to ensure that the service is effective going forward.”
PAEDOPHILES, burglars and a kidnapper were among those who applied to become taxi drivers across East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire.
Figures from the Disclosure and Barring Service show that between 2012 and 2015, 2,890 disclosure orders were applied for.
Anyone applying to become a licence holder of a private hire vehicle or a hackney carriage must have a check carried out by the DBS which they must present as part of their application.
From the applications made, more than 17 per cent were found to have a conviction; 514 applicants in total with 2,003 convictions, cautions or reprimands between them.
Offences include indecent assault on a female under the age of 14, sexual intercourse with a female under the age of 16 and kidnapping.
There was also a host of driving offences including not wearing a seatbelt and driving while disqualified.
Policies from East Staffordshire Borough Council and South Derbyshire District Council mirror one another with major offences such as sexual assault or violence leaving it ‘unlikely’ that a licence will be accepted.
A spokesman from South Derbyshire District Council said: “Our main priority is protecting the public and making South Derbyshire a safe place to be. A full DBS check is required for all new drivers applying to us for a licence and the law requires that this check must be renewed every three years. Drivers are required to notify us of any new convictions they may have.
“The council’s policy is that when anyone with a previous criminal conviction applies for a private hire licence, the case is referred to the Licensing and Appeals Sub-Committee.
“Our private hire licensing policy, which can be viewed on our website, is then applied in each individual case to inform prior to any decision made.”
The DBS is not able to state whether any of the individuals were employed as that decision is down to the local authority.
A spokesman from East Staffordshire Borough Council said: “Following the appropriate legislation the general licensing committee consider whether the applicant is a fit and proper person.
“Each case must be dealt with on its own merits. The committee follow Home Office guidance for particular offences and periods free from conviction will be taken into account.
“The principal objective for the licensing authority is the safety and protection of the public.”
A TAXI driver lost his job after he punched a passer-by who told him to move his cab.
Waheed Sadiq left the victim needing stitches following the attack in Stoke.
Sadiq has since had his taxi licence revoked and has now received a suspended prison sentence.
Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard Sadiq’s taxi was double parked in Glebe Street – blocking one of the two lanes – when a bus stopped alongside him to let passengers off.
This blocked the road, and one of the disembarking bus passengers complained to Sadiq, who then struck the victim in the face.
The single blow caused the man to fall to the ground, and he required stitches to a mouth wound.
Sadiq, of Erskine Street, Dresden, was arrested following the incident which happened on the afternoon of February 7, 2015.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council then revoked his taxi licence, despite his denial of the wounding charge.
Councillor Joy Garner, chairwoman of the licensing and general purposes committee said: “We treat any incidents of this nature extremely seriously. In this instance we moved swiftly to put Sadiq’s case before the earliest licensing panel meeting, last June.
“Sadiq’s taxi licence was immediately revoked.
“The safety of the public is our number one priority and we will use our powers to take action quickly in the interests of public protection.”
Sadiq, who has two previous convictions including an assault by beating, was found guilty last month after a trial.
The 35-year-old is now working at a local restaurant.
Sadiq was sentenced at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court this week where Judge David Fletcher handed him a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.
Judge Fletcher said: “You knew you were parked there for longer than you should have been. It’s a busy, one way street.
“When the bus stopped it stopped the traffic, that annoyed people. This gentleman spoke to you and you responded by punching him.
“You behaved in a boorish and arrogant manner.”
Sadiq – whose wife is about to have a baby – was also ordered to do 220 hours unpaid work, pay £500 compensation to the victim and complete 30 sessions of a rehabilitation activity requirement.
The city has around 1,800 licensed taxi drivers. Any driver who is charged with a crime is required to inform the city council within seven days.