Private Hire driver recovering from fractured skull after being “left for dead” in Brierley Hill town centre

A private-hire driver was left for dead after suffering a fractured skull in an attack in Brierley Hill town centre.

Mohammed Ahmed was beaten up by a group of men who fled, leaving nearby residents to raise the alarm on Sunday night.

The 60-year-old victim was taken to Russells Hall Hospital in a critical condition, but police said he is now “comfortable and recovering”.

The shocking attack was condemned by Shaz Saleem, chairman of the Dudley Private Hire and Taxi Association.

He said Mr Ahmed, who works for the Brierley Hill-based Newline Taxis, had little memory of what happened, but could recall a group of men arguing with him about why he could not pick them up in Bell Street South, shortly before 9.30pm.

Mr Saleem, who spoke to Mr Ahmed from his bedside, said: “He told them they needed to ring up and book a taxi, because he is a private hire driver not a hackney carriage driver.

“His memory of what happened is blurred, but it was a totally shocking incident and it’s very disheartening for one of our members to be attacked like this.

“He was left for dead and I am very grateful to residents who heard something going on and raised the alarm.”

Mr Saleem said Mr Ahmed was knocked out by the first punch and did not know whether he had got out of his vehicle or whether he was pulled out.

He added: “This is a very unfortunate incident and something we have been fearing for a while.

“Driver safety is a massive issue for the association and, as well as public safety, the council must ensure the safety of all of our drivers.

“All of our drivers are DBS checked, but the passengers aren’t. We have no idea who the people we pick up are or what they might do.

“We used to work closely with the police and the council who helped us set up our taxi watch, but with the police changes and cuts to the funding, the support from the authorities isn’t there like it used to be.

“It is vitally important that more is done in order to protect our drivers and I am disappointed that it takes attacks on our workers – who are only trying to do their jobs – for the topic to be raised.”

Witnesses, or anyone with information about the attack, should call West Midlands Police on 101.

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

Child sex offence charges for Walsall taxi drivers

Three Walsall taxi drives have been charged with child sex offences.

A NUMBER of taxi drivers in Walsall have been charged with child sex offences.

Amjad Khan, 35, of Durham Place, Walsall is charged with inciting a child to engage in sexual activity in 2014, Zahoor Ahmed, 45, of Alexandra Road, Palfrey, Walsall is charged with engaging in sexual activity with a child in 2014 and Nawaz Ahmed, 35, of Hucker Road, Pleck, Walsall is charged with three counts of sexual activity with a child in 2014 and taking an indecent image of a child in 2014.

Amjad Khan will appear before Walsall Magistrates Court on Tuesday, March 1 with Zahoor Ahmed and Nawaz Ahmed set to appear seven days later on Tuesday 8 March. All of the charges relate to one teenage girl.

Sentinel is a long-running West Midlands Police initiative to target child sex offenders and to encourage victims of exploitation to speak out about their attacker’s crimes. Details can be found at www.west-midlands.police.uk/sentinel

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

Hartlepool cabbies will be trained to spot sexual abuse

All Hartlepool taxi drivers are set to undergo training to help recognise and act on signs that children may be being exploited sexually.

A new amendment to Hartlepool’s Taxi Licensing Policy will require all new drivers to take the training and all existing drivers must complete an awareness course within a year of the new policy coming into force.

Hartlepool Borough Council, which awards taxi licences says taxi drivers have an important role to play in helping to tackle the issue.

It follows an official report that said taxi drivers played a prominent role in moving around children who were abused in Rotherham between 1997-2013.

Two drivers were jailed for their role in the rape and trafficking of young girls in Rochdale.

Hartlepool licensing officer Ian Harrison said: “This will ensure our taxi drivers who do have an insight into all sorts of activities that they understand what child sexual exploitation is, can recognise the signs and know what to do about it.

“ This will ensure our taxi drivers who do have an insight into all sorts of activities that they understand what child sexual exploitation is, can recognise the signs and know what to do about it

“If someone is intent on carrying out child sexual exploitation any training we give is not going to stop them.

“This is for the 99.99% of honest taxi drivers to recognise and do something.”

Mr Harrison is working with leading children’s charity Barnardo’s to develop a taxi driver training package that will be rolled out across the country.

Another amendment Hartlepool’s taxi licensing policy is to remove an exemption in the current policy which says anyone applying to be a taxi driver can use their HGV drivers licence medical.

It is because HGV medicals can be gained through self declaration and without a doctor having access to the person’s medical records.

It is in response to an incident in Glasgow 2014 where a bin lorry driver, who had not fully disclosed his previous medical history, killed six people and injured 15 others after passing out at the wheel.

Instead, all applicants would have to provide a Group 2 medical certificate completed by a doctor who has had access to the driver’s medical records.

The draft policy go out to consultation between March 1 and May 31 and will be brought back to the licensing committee for further debate.

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

Child protection campaigners hit out at councils for high number of taxi and private hire licences

The Windsor & Eton Express reports that Child protection campaigners have slammed Slough Borough Council (SBC) and the Royal Borough for issuing an ‘unusually large’ 2,500 taxi and private hire licences.

The Express can reveal Slough Borough Council, with a population of 122,000, has 901 licensed drivers.

The Royal Borough, with a population of 147,000, has issued a whopping 1,600 licences to drivers.

Together, the two boroughs have a total of 2,501 licences for a population of 269,000.

By comparison, the six councils in Lancashire (Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Chorley and Pendle) have issued just 2,309 licences for a population of more than 700,000.

The Royal Borough has revoked two licences due to inappropriate behaviour with children in the past year. SBC has also revoked two licences due to links to adult sexual offences.

None of the drivers with revoked licences have yet received a criminal conviction; two are currently under police investigation.

Now campaigners have criticised the councils for the number of licences issued.

They worry that a lack of safeguarding training is putting young people, particularly children in care who are often transported in taxis, at risk.

Founder of women’s charity Jeena International, Rani Bilkhu, said taxis had been linked to child sexual exploitation (CSE) and there was something ‘seriously wrong’ with both councils.

“More needs to be done and we need to see not only tighter rules on who can get a licence and more training, we need to see convictions being made,” she said.

“People have no confidence in the council or the police force because if they complain nothing happens. A licence may be revoked occasionally but these people rarely end up in court.”

Richard Stokes, former leader of Slough Borough Council and child protection campaigner, said: “It is difficult to envisage over 900 vehicles operating for hire in Slough, which prompts the question – where are they all and what are they doing?”

SBC was supposed to roll out a mandatory safeguarding training programme for all of its licensed drivers in January but this has still not been introduced. The council says the programme is now likely to begin in April.

The Royal Borough is ‘working on’ a training programme for drivers, but has set no firm start date.

A Royal Borough spokesman said in a statement it was committed to protecting children and young people from the risk of CSE.

It added: “The council does not have the right to restrict the number of taxi and private hire drivers in the area. However, we ensure all of our applicants are ‘fit and proper’ as required by legislation.”

SBC said: “The council works very closely with the taxi and private hire operators and their drivers to raise awareness about how to protect young people from CSE and encourage the reporting of suspicious behaviour.”

It added it has already issued stickers to taxi drivers to display in their vehicles highlighting what to do if someone suspects an incident of CSE.

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

Exeter nervous tic taxi driver cleared of outraging public decency after judge throws out case

A taxi driver has been cleared of outraging public decency after a Judge threw out the case against him.

Alexandru Dragan was alleged to have put his hand inside his trousers while taking a family from Exeter to a holiday cottage at Cheriton Fitzpaine.

A judge at Exeter Crown Court dismissed the case after ruling that there was no case to answer even if the account of the 17-year-old girl in the front seat and her mother in the back were accepted by the jury.

Recorder Mr Philip Mott, QC, said the test of what amounted to outrage was very high and the alleged actions did not constitute the offence.

He said:” I conclude it would not be safe to leave this case to the jury. The House of Lords have made it clear that outraging is a very strong word and goes beyond offending susceptibilities or even shocking reasonable people.

“It would have to involve very offensive sexual displays and there is a question of whether what is alleged her, even taken at its highest, amounts to that.

“There was no removal of clothing or even the sight of underwear or flesh. There was no exposure of the genitals or sign of an erection.

“It does not in law amount to conduct as strong as outraging public decency, however improper or offensive it may have appeared and clearly was perceived to be by the girl.”

The case ended before Dragan was able to put his side of the story to the jury but in police interviews he said there had been nothing sexual in his actions.

He blamed a nervous tic which he has suffered from since childhood and discomfort arising from a gall bladder operation for his ‘jerking movements’. He said his use of a mobile phone on his thigh may also have been misinterpreted.

Dragan, aged 36, of Exwick Hill, Exeter, denied outraging public decency and was found not guilty on the directions of the judge.

During the one day case the 17-year-old tourist said she was shocked by seeing the driver putting his hand inside his trousers.

She was in the front seat while her younger sister, mother and grandmother were in the back of the Apple Taxi during the journey from Exeter St David’s to a holiday cottage in Mid Devon in April last year.

She said: “His left hand was holding the bottom of the steering wheel and his right hand was on his groin. I looked again and he was moving his hand around. I looked away.

“What I saw was him moving his hand in scratching action and pinching his trousers up and down. He kept turning to face me. It did not look as if he was uncomfortable.

“I felt awkward. I did not think it was the sort of thing you should do in front of a stranger. I looked out of the window and when I looked back his right hand was on the wheel and his left was down his trousers.

“His hand went into his trousers up to his wrist. It was on the dead centre of his groin and moving slowly under his trousers. I thought he was touching himself inappropriately. He stopped after one or two minutes.

“I was worried and uncomfortable and a bit disgusted. I had never been in a situation like that before. I did not think he had an innocent reason for touching himself like that. I thought it was a sexual act.

“It was 15 to 20 minutes before we arrived at Cheriton Fitzpaine and during that time I opened the window and gazed out of it.

“When we arrived I walked away from the car immediately. I told my mum I didn’t like that driver and she said neither did she.”

Mr Jonathan Barnes, defending, pointed out that Dragan was driving his taxi in broad daylight with other members of the girl’s family in the back.

He said there was at the very least a realistic possibility of an innocent explanation for his movements and there was medical evidence to support the account he had given to the police.

Mr Barnes said: “He is also very concerned as a Romanian. He and his wife and the Romanian community generally feel they have met a great deal of prejudice in this country.”

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

Black-cab drivers fined after refusing fares because destination was too close

The Manchester Evening News reports that two cab drivers, who refused the same fare outside the Radisson Hotel in Manchester city centre, have been prosecuted for breaching cabbie byelaws

Two black-cab drivers have been hit with fines after refusing to pick up two people in Manchester city centre because their destination was too close.

The drivers, who refused the same fare outside the Radisson Hotel, have been prosecuted for breaching cabbie byelaws.

The rules state drivers must pick people up in the city – and four miles into neighbouring boroughs – unless they have a ‘reasonable’ excuse to refuse.

After being hit with fines of £100 and £1,060 by magistrates, Mohammed Shafie Akbari and Mohammed Meharban now face additional hearings in front of the town hall’s licensing appeals sub committee.

The pair could be issued with warnings, suspended – or even have their licences revoked.

In April last year, two women attempted to hail a cab from the rank on Peter Street outside the Radisson Hotel to Watson Street, where a number of drivers were waiting.

Akbari advised the woman to walk as their destination was close by. Despite them having several items of luggage, he refused to take the fare.

Meharban, who was in second in the queue, also refused to take the women. A third cabbie on the rank agreed to take the fare.

The women made a complaint to the town hall’s licensing unit, who launched an investigation.

Akbari, 43, of Upper West Grove, Longsight , pleaded guilty to refusing to convey a passenger without reasonable excuse, and was fined £100.

Meharban, 48, of Whiston Road, Crumpsall , pleaded not guilty. But the case against him was later proved in court.

He was fined £400, with costs of £620 and a £40 victim surcharge – a total bill of £1,060.

Manchester council’s executive member for neighbourhoods, Nigel Murphy, said: “People using Manchester’s taxis deserve and, rightly so, expect an accommodating and pleasant service from its drivers.

“Taxi passengers may not realise that drivers are committing an offence if they refuse to pick them up, but as this case proves this is a serious breach of the rules.

“I’d urge anyone who thinks they have been wrongly refused service to make a note of the driver’s details and contact our licensing department.”

Town hall chiefs are urging passengers to take note of cab drivers’ licence number if their fare is refused.

Complaints can be emailed to taxilicensing@manchester.gov.uk.

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

Uber driver arraigned on 6 murder counts

Jason Dalton, 45, was arraigned Monday on six counts of murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit murder and eight felony firearm counts in connection with a shooting spree that left six people dead Saturday night in and around Kalamazoo, Mich. Here is what we know.

Dalton, wearing glasses and an orange jump suit, made a video appearance from jail. He sat quietly while the charges were read, responding with brief answers to a judge’s basic queries. Dalton, who was denied bail, could face life in prison without parole if convicted. Michigan does not have the death penalty.

The crimes

Police say Dalton, while moonlighting as an Uber driver, randomly shot victims at three locations in between fares. The attacks started at about 6 p.m. when police say Dalton shot a woman four times at an apartment complex parking lot. The victim was hospitalized in serious condition.

After four hours of quiet, the spree apparently turned deadly. Police say Dalton shot and killed a father and son sitting in their cars at a Kia car dealership at about 10 p.m. And 15 minutes later, police say he killed four people and critically wounded a 14-year-old girl in a Cracker Barrel parking lot.

Dalton was arrested without incident at about 12:45 a.m. Sunday after a Kalamazoo County sheriff’s deputy spotted a car matching the description of Dalton’s vehicle leaving a bar parking lot. A semiautomatic handgun was found in the car, police said.

The suspect

Kalamazoo Prosecutor Jeff Getting said Dalton has no prior criminal record, and Uber said he passed a background check. Dalton lives in a small ranch home in Kalamazoo County with his wife, Carole, and two children. His daytime job was insurance adjuster, and neighbors say he enjoyed tinkering with cars and owned a few of them.

Carole Dalton works for the investment firm Raymond James and earned an administrative assistant certificate from Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

“He was a nice guy,” neighbor Sally Pardo, 70, told the Detroit Free Press. “He had two kids, a wife. That’s what’s really sad. Those kids have to live with this for the rest of their lives. What’s even sadder is the victims and their families. … It just breaks my heart.”

Getting said Dalton appeared even-tempered during his arrest and subsequent questioning.

“He did not present in a combative way or an emotional way at all,” Getting said.

The victims

The fatalities at the car dealership were high school senior Tyler Smith, 17, and his father, Richard, 53, Mattawan Consolidated Schools superintendent Robin Buckler confirmed.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Tyler and his family, friends and the community,” Buchler said in a statement.

The Cracker Barrel fatalities were Mary Lou Nye, 62, of Baroda, Mich., and Battle Creek residents Mary Jo Nye, 60, Dorothy Brown, 74, and Barbara Hawthorne, 68.

Mary Lou Nye was the driver of an Oldsmobile minivan targeted in the restaurant’s lot. Neighbor Carol Dinges said Nye was a retired office manager who stayed positive even while rebuilding a house heavily damaged by a tornado.

Mary Jo Nye was the driver of a Chevrolet Cruze. Nye was a retired teacher who played a role in the founding of an alternative high school in Battle Creek and taught English there before retiring four years ago.  Tara Egnatuk, an assistant director at the school, told the Battle Creek Enquirer she believed Mary Lou and Mary Jo Nye were sisters-in-law.

Brown, the mother of two grown sons, was a passenger in the Chevolet Cruze. “A sweet, sweet old lady,” Daniel Arnold, Brown’s next-door neighbor for the last three years, told mlive.com. “You couldn’t ask for a better neighbor.”

Hawthorne, also in the Cruze, worked at Kellogg Co. for 22 years before retiring in 2008, Kellogg CEO John Bryant said.

“We are deeply saddened by these tragic events and brokenhearted to learn that one of the victims, Barbara Hawthorne, belonged to our Kellogg family,” Bryant said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Barbara’s family and friends, as well as all of the victims of this crime and their families.”

Uber

Uber customer Matt Mellen told WWMT-TV in Kalamazoo that he got a ride from Dalton less than two hours before the shooting spree began. He said Dalton showed up in a Chevy Equinox with his dog in the back at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Mellen told the station Dalton began driving erratically after receiving a phone call.

“We were driving through medians, driving through the lawn, speeding along and when we came to a stop, I jumped out of the car and ran away,” Mellen told the station. He said he called police and Uber.

Uber issued a statement saying the company was cooperating with police.

““We are horrified and heartbroken at the senseless violence in Kalamazoo, Michigan,” Joe Sullivan, chief security officer at Uber, said in the statement. “Our hearts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this devastating crime and those recovering from injuries. We have reached out to the police to help with their investigation in any way that we can.”

President Obama weighs in

President Obama, speaking at a meeting of U.S. governors in Washington, said he had called the mayor and police chief in Kalamazoo and pledged federal support. He said first responders had done an “outstanding job.”

Still, he added, “We have got families that are shattered today.”

Contributing: Jennifer Bowman, Battle Creek Enquirer

source: http://www.usatoday.com

Taxi driver’s £800 fine after police ​’sting’

TAXI driver Muhammad Shahzad has been ordered to pay more than £800 – after being caught illegally plying for trade.

The cabbie fell victim to a ‘sting’ operation by police and council officials in Biddulph where he collected plain-clothed officers.

And taxi drivers in the town say that a number of firms from outside the area will often try and collect customers – in a move they claim is damaging their trade.

Shahzad is licensed by Newcastle Borough Council and is therefore only permitted to collect customers who have not pre-booked from that area.

By collecting the plain-clothed officers in Biddulph, who had not booked, the driver invalidated his insurance.

Now Shahzad, of Cauldon Road, Shelton, has been fined and given six penalty points.

Magistrates at North Staffordshire Justice Centre found the 28-year-old guilty in his absence and he was convicted for plying for hire in an area in which he was not licensed and driving without insurance.

He was fined £150 and told to pay £650 costs and a £20 victim surcharge.

Staffordshire Moorlands District Council took the action after Shahzad was caught out on December 5, 2014 on High Street in Biddulph. The prosecution came as a result of a crackdown between the authority and Staffordshire police.

Councillor Brian Johnson hopes the court’s decision will help send out a message to other drivers looking to illegally operate in the Moorlands.

He said: “The safety of passengers using taxis and private hire vehicles is paramount, which is why it is so important to be sure that the taxis and private hire vehicles and drivers you use are properly licensed.

“I hope this conviction sends out a clear message that being licensed matters, that we do monitor those people offering taxi services and that we will take action against anyone operating illegally.

“It’s easy for passengers to check as licensed vehicles should display a plate with the licence number, vehicle reg and the council’s logo and the driver will usually wear, or display, an identity badge.

“In Staffordshire Moorlands, passengers can only jump in or hail taxis displaying white plates with a blue border – all other vehicles need to be booked in advance.”

Hackney carriage drivers are allowed to collect fares from the street without pre-bookings being made – but can only do so in the area they are licensed to operate in.

However, they and private hire vehicles may pick up passengers anywhere in the UK – as long as they are pre-booked.

Biddulph taxi driver Ian Shingler says that on weekend nights a number of Stoke-on-Trent operators can be seen in the town trying to pick up fares.

Ian, who runs Biddulph Taxis and lives in the town, said: “We do see a lot of drivers from the city coming in to Biddulph and we do report it.”

Ian, a driver of about 15 years, added: “I believe that Leek also has similar issues and we want the council to take action.”

In Newcastle the council claims the problem of drivers from out of the area trying to pick up customers in the town has gone down since a dedicated area for collections, complete with marshals, was set up at the bus station.

Elsewhere, regular operations are also carried out in Stafford and Stone to tackle the problem.

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

Lincoln taxi drivers walk out of BTEC course that asks ‘which colour handbag do you like best?’

The Lincolnshire Echo reports that furious Lincoln taxi drivers have walked out of a college course that City of Lincoln Council demanded all local cabbies pay for, take and pass.

The cabbies have been told they must complete a BTEC course in customer care, public protection, health and safety and routes and fares. But drivers say they already pay hundreds of pounds to take courses and fund fees and the extra training is unnecessary.

On the first day of the course, which began this week, up to six taxi drivers left branding the course ‘a joke’ after they were asked to fill in a questionnaire, which included simplistic comprehension questions, such as “which colour handbag do you like best?” next to a picture of a woman holding an assortment of bags.

The council defended its decision to make drivers take the course, set by Lincoln College, saying the requirement for training will enhance the service provided to the public and also the professional status of drivers. The local authority said the offending questions were designed to test basic language skills in advance of the BTEC beginning.

One taxi driver who did not wish to be named said: “They set three forms out on the table. They didn’t say why we were there or what we had to do. I was expecting to go into a room and sit down with other people talking to us.”

Another taxi driver said he had refused to take the BTEC course in the first place and had even considered a career change because of the £240 cost to take the course.

“They should have introduced it to new taxi drivers wanting to come into the industry not established ones. We’ve jumped through so many hoops already.

“Some of our drivers have been driving for 38 years. It makes a mockery of what they’re trying to do.

“It should be there from the outset so you can make an informed decision about becoming a taxi driver. If you want to become a taxi driver that’s what you need.

“The worst case scenario is there’s going to be certain drivers out there who’ll go underground and there’ll be more bogus taxis on the rise. I’ve got morals but I think there’ll be people who’ll think, ‘I’m not paying that I’m going to do it illegally.'”

Mick Crow, managing director of Direct Cars in Lincoln, said the course would sort the good drivers from the bad, but did fear people may leave the profession because of the costs.

The 49-year-old said: “At the end of the day it will get the bad ones out because the bad ones won’t want to stick at it but the good ones will.

“We encourage people to come on board, we pay for all their badges. We’ve got some drivers costing more than £400, some cost over £700. The cost is going to deter people away from the job.”

A city council spokesman said: “The questions are not part of the BTEC. It’s entirely English comprehension. What it’s doing is [testing] whether anyone has additional needs such as not having English as their first language, or illiteracy or reading difficulties.

“It’s set by Lincoln College so when people come in they know what level everybody is operating at.”

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

Hackney drivers fear influx of old cabs into Northampton following rules change

Taxis aged up to 19 years old are working in Northampton following a relaxation of rules on the age of vehicles.

The borough council changed the three-year age limit for hackney carriage last month, letting drivers make a living from any age of cab.

Northampton Hackney Carriage Association said it was concerned that already dwindling numbers of spaces on the ranks would become fewer still.

In the last three years, numbers in Northampton have already jumped from about 125 to 150.

Joe Matthews, the chairman, said although a handful of drivers had already started up with cabs nearly 20 years old, the issue was not poor quality vehicles.

He said: “All cabs have to pass strict tests. The issue is too many hackney cabs competing for too few spots.

“The rule change means they are far cheaper to buy and we’ve already seen a few extra ones arrive since last month. It means you have to wait a good hour after a job to get back on a rank and we all end up working longer hours to make up earnings.”

Mr Matthews said the rules meant there was not a level playing field between established drivers who have recently paid £35,000 for a new vehicle and someone just arriving in the trade who has paid £2,000.

The borough council stressed that all cabs that were licenced had passed strict test.

A spokeswoman said: “Prior to January 2016 there was an upper limit on the age of hackney vehicles at first registration. This was finally removed following a committee decision in 2012 to phase it out.

“The situation remains that all vehicles being registered as Hackneys and private hire vehicles have to pass a very stringent inspection prior to be being licensed and the council must be satisfied that the vehicles used in Northampton are safe.

“We have not seen a significant increase in the number of vehicles being registered since this change came into effect.”

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