Taxi Driver Online

News, comment and advice on the UK taxi and private hire trades

Milton Keynes taxi driver rapist: David Cameron criticises ‘bad decision’

Posted by admin on September 4th, 2014

Source: BBC Online

David Cameron has said it was a “bad decision” to allow a convicted rapist to become a taxi driver in Milton Keynes.

Members of a licensing committee saw a document detailing crimes committed by Nadeem Ahmed Kiani before they decided to grant him a licence in 2011. The 44-year-old was imprisoned in 1994 for rape and serious sexual assault. His taxi licences have been revoked.

The prime minister said it was a “rather shocking story”. Mr Cameron said it was the government’s responsibility to “set the ground rules” and advised local authorities to check whether drivers were “fit and proper persons”. “We advise they should do Criminal Record Bureau checks,” he said.

“It’s obvious in this case that the council followed the correct procedures but then made a bad decision. “When that happens, the person making that decision should bear the consequences.” Milton Keynes mayor Subhan Shafiq, who had vouched for Kiani, resigned from his post last week.

The document detailed how Kiani and a co-defendant had picked up prostitutes in a vehicle, threatened them with weapons, then raped and sexually abused them. Mr Shafiq had described Kiani as “a friend” and spoke of his “good current character and family circumstances”. Kiani was sentenced to eight years imprisonment at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court in October 1994. His name was also added to the sex offenders register.

Milton Keynes Council leader Peter Marland said Mr Shafiq should examine his conscience over whether he could even continue as a councillor. Meanwhile, a council investigation found seven of the area’s taxi drivers had criminal convictions. One, who was convicted of a sexual offence, has not had his licence taken away.

Conservative MP for Milton Keynes North, Mark Lancaster, described the news as “one of those absolute jaw-dropping moments”. “We have a duty to ensure the safety of our residents and being a taxi driver means you’re in a confined space with an individual who could be vulnerable,” he said.

“We need to toughen our approach to the licensing process. “I accept people go to prison and serve their sentences, and after a period of rehabilitation, that conviction is spent. “But there are some offences that are so severe, like rape or sexual assault, that mean you should never be allowed to become a taxi driver,” he said.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Taxis and private hire vehicles are licensed by local authorities in England and Wales. “Local licensing authorities have a statutory duty to ensure that any person to whom they grant a driver’s licence is a fit and proper person.”

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Perv taxi driver jailed for sex assaults on teen girls in Dover

Posted by admin on August 20th, 2014

Source: Dover Express

A LECHEROUS taxi driver who sexually assaulted two teen girls who had been on nights out in Dover has been jailed.

Creepy cabbie Rezgar Hassan, 22, of High Street, Dover, was found guilty by a jury of two counts of sexual assault and sentenced to three years imprisonment on Monday.

Iraqi Hassan, who was also subject of a five-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order and will be on the Sex Offenders’ Register indefinitely, has also been recommended for deportation.

In the early hours of January 27, 2013, Hassan was driving a taxi in Market Square when he accepted a fare from a 19-year-old and her two friends, Canterbury Crown Court heard. The victim sat in the front seat of the taxi and during the course of the journey, felt Hassan put his hand on her leg. It was then that he inappropriately touched her.

Upon exiting the taxi, the victim told her friends and the following day she reported it to police. Hassan was arrested and he was later picked out in an identity parade.

In a second incident, in the early hours of March 10, 2013, a 17-year-old girl was waiting at the train station at Dover Priory. Hassan was again in his taxi and approached the teenager, offering her a lift home to Folkestone for free. He told her to sit in the back seat with a cover over her as he had another passenger to collect. Once that person had been dropped off, she got in the front seat.

Hassan told her to recline her seat and then started asking intimate questions. He told her if she showed him her breasts, he would let her go. He then pulled her top down and inappropriately touched her before allowing the girl to get out.

Investigating officer, PC Natasha Russell of Kent Police, said: “It was clear when investigating these two individual reports that Hassan had preyed on his young victims, taking full advantage of their vulnerability. “After having been on a night out in the town, both victims did the right thing by getting a taxi home. They expected the taxi to be a place of safety, but instead Hassan took full advantage of his position.

“I would like to personally thank both victims for showing courage and bravery and coming forward to report what had happened to them. “The sentencing reflects the seriousness of the crime and should serve as a warning that neither Kent Police nor the courts will accept this type of behaviour.”

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Posted in Crime and the trade, Fit and proper?, Security | Comments Off

Farnworth 2-year-old finds suspected drugs packet in back of Metro taxi

Posted by admin on August 6th, 2014

Source: Bolton News

A FATHER has warned minicab drivers to check their vehicles after a toddler found a packet suspected to be drugs.

James Clayton was travelling to his mum’s home in Breightmet in a Metro Cars private hire vehicle when his two-year-old daughter Hollie picked up a small snap bag containing white powder from the middle seat.

Mr Clayton, a ground worker from Farnworth, told the driver and later phoned the Tonge Moor Road firm to explain what happened.

He said the company said it advised drivers to check their seats between picking up passengers.

Mr Clayton, aged 27, said: “I just want people to be aware of what could be in the cars. If my daughter had put that in her mouth she would have chewed it and her teeth would have gone straight through the packet.

“I had just put my little girl on the seat and she picked the packet up. I snatched it out of her hand.”

He also called police following the incident on Saturday, and they are due to collect the packet from Mr Clayton.

A police spokesman confirmed an incident had been reported on Saturday at about 3.20pm.

The spokesman said: “An appointment has been made to go and see the caller.”

Nick Astley, from Metro Cars, said: “It’s protocol for drivers of all companies to check after people have left the vehicles but with something so small can be impossible to find.

“I am sorry that the little girl found it. It is very upsetting. We can only learn from it. We ask customers to be vigilant as well.

“It could have been found anywhere but around young children we especially need to have our eyes and ears open.

“It is important people involved in drugs are dealt with appropriately and they get the highest possible sentence.”

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He’s my hero, says Margaret, 82, after taxi driver rescues her from flat fire

Posted by admin on July 23rd, 2014

Source: Express and Star

A taxi driver who carried an elderly woman in his arms to safety after a flat fire was praised for his bravery today.

Paul Hickinbottom smashed through a door to the apartment block where 82-year-old Margaret Bright was living after spotting smoke in a ground floor flat.

The 40-year-old walked through the black smoke to get to Mrs Bright’s upstairs flat before carrying her down the communal stairs and outside to safety. The rescue took place in Rainbow Street in Coseley just before 7pm on Monday night.

Mrs Bright, who has lived in her flat for 27 years, thanked Mr Hickinbottom yesterday, describing him as ‘my hero’. But the taxi driver, who lives in Poole Crescent, said: “I did what any normal neighbour would do – try and help those around them who might be in need. “It was nothing really.”

Mr Hickinbottom was returning home from a shop ASDA when he spotted smoke and took a detour to Rainbow Street. When he saw people crowded outside the house he broke through the door to the Dudley Council-owned apartment block.

He said: “I knew she was up there so I ran upstairs and shouted for her to open the door. “She ain’t the fastest anymore, bless her, so when she opened the door I picked her up and took her outside. “I think everyone is just glad to know she is okay. I was covered in black so I went to have a bath before getting my tea.”

Mrs Bright was alerted to the fire by friend Mavis Millard. She had called her up after hearing loud noises in the flat below. Mrs Millard then looked across from her house opposite and saw smoke coming from the property below.

Mrs Bright said: “I was just having my tea when I heard a load of noise downstairs. I called Mavis and she told me there was black smoke coming from below. “I thought I was going to have a heart attack. “Paul came in and carried me out. He’s my hero, I can’t be thankful enough. “I’m still in shock about the whole thing.”

Fire crews from Dudley and Bilston smashed windows to the downstairs flat to tackle the blaze. A man, in his 50s, was arrested on suspicion of arson.

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Bristol taxi drivers hit out as at least 100 hackney cab drivers from out of town exploit loophole to work in city

Posted by admin on July 16th, 2014

Source: SouthWest Business

Scores of taxi drivers from other parts of the country are exploiting a loophole in the law by coming to Bristol looking for work, it has emerged.

At least 100 hackney cab drivers from as far afield as Sheffield and Cornwall are taking advantage of the legal anomaly to ply their trade in the city.

Old-fashioned black cabs from other parts of the country can operate in Bristol legally, but only as private hire cars.

They are not licensed or insured to pick up passengers in the street, unless they’ve been pre-booked.

Cab drivers based in the city have to pass a local geography test which examines their knowledge of the city and the rules surrounding MOT tests are also much tougher.

But black cab drivers from outside Bristol are allowed to come to the city and work as private hire cars, which means they are not supposed to stop and pick up passengers in the street.

Under the law, private cars can only be booked and drivers who don’t stay within the rules are not insured. At the moment all Hackney carriages in Bristol have to be blue, so people know they are safe and are also covered by the law.

But some Bristol-based drivers are worried the “Bristol blue” brand is being devalued, because the private hire vehicles, which are not as strictly regulated by the council, are breaking the regulations.

According to cabbies in Bristol some of the drivers from other parts of the UK are even painting their vehicles Bristol blue, so members of the public do not realise they are getting into an uninsured vehicle.

Bob Savery, 63, a taxi driver based at Temple Meads, said: “This is a matter of public safety and we are very concerned that someone will get hurt.

“People get taxi or private hire licences from councils miles away from Bristol, to avoid paying a high insurance and plate fee and avoid taking the geography test.

“They get a taxi licence there, but come all the way over here to pick people up – because Bristol is easy pickings.

“In North Devon for instance, it’s dead in the winter for drivers. But there is always work in Bristol. But Bristol City Council has not necessarily approved these drivers or their cars to work as taxis.

“If people get in them they might not be covered by insurance, and if an accident happens, or someone gets hurt, people will be so angry that nothing was done about this.”

Tim Lloyd, 53, also a taxi driver in Bristol City Centre, said a lot of the drivers he knew were concerned.

He said: “There are dozens doing it. We are not saying all private hire cabs are dangerous, but the public needs to be better educated, and needs to know the risks.

“All taxi drivers I know in Bristol are worried about what could happen.”

A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “The practice of out-of-town vehicles operating in major cities is a national issue, as highlighted in a recent Law Commission report concerning taxi and private hire services.

“This recognised that some taxi drivers are exploiting licensing authorities known to have lower standards than the area they are intending to operate in. Unfortunately, while this is undesirable, the practice is a lawful one. There is a draft Deregulation Bill currently before parliament which, if passed, would remove this incentive by introducing national minimum standards so that all licensing authorities are operating with common minimum standards.”

The difference between private hire cars and Hackney carriages:

There are currently around a 1,000 Hackney cabs in Bristol and an estimated 800 private hire cars.

Hackney carriages (taxi cabs):
- Must be blue in Bristol
- Can be hailed from the street
- Can operate from taxi ranks
- Can be pre-booked if you wish
- Can only operate in Bristol City
- Must have a meter and a fare table displayed
- Have a white plate attached to the rear of the vehicle which states the vehicle number.
- Must comply with the council’s MOT and insurance requirements.
- Must pass a geography test before starting work.

Private hire cars:
- Cannot be blue in Bristol
- Cannot use taxi ranks
- Must be pre-booked through a licensed operator
- Can operate anywhere in the country
- Do not have to pass geography tests, or comply with the council’s MOT requirements.
- Private hire drivers are breaking the law to allow you into an unbooked vehicle.

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Chauffeur App booking company Uber discussed in urgent TfL meeting

Posted by admin on July 4th, 2014

Source: Windsor Express

Transport for London Officials are meeting this morning (3rd July 2014) to discuss chauffeur App booking company Uber, to respond to claims that the company is not operating legally in the UK.

Managing Director of Surface Transport for TfL, Leon Daniels has today presented the following report to board members to outline his findings following the taxi strike in the city last month.

It reads;
Members of the board will be concerned to know what was behind the taxi dispute in London on 11th June. On that day at 1400 there was a protest which involved some 5,000 cabs and which was contained within Whitehall for about an hour. The MPS issued certain directions to allow peaceful protest whilst minimising the effect on emergency services and other essential activity.

Central to the dispute is the licensed private hire operator ‘Uber’ which was granted a licence in May 2012. It operates in 69 other cities. This operator does not own its own vehicles but ‘signs up’ licensed PH drivers and vehicles. Customers download an App to their smartphone or computer and book a PH vehicle using it. The work is accepted by the operator, dispatched to a driver and the customer gets the name, photograph and registration number of vehicle and the journey is tracked using GPS. At the end of the journey data is transmitted to remotely located servers and the fare calculated and then communicated to the driver’s smart phone. Usually customers have set up a credit card account to facilitate payment.

It has been alleged by the PHV trade and the licensed cab trade: That the entity that is accepting Uber bookings, and making provision for those bookings to be invited or accepted, is not a licensed PHV operator. There are references to Uber BV, a related but distinct company based in the Netherlands in certain Uber documentation and, That Uber PHVs are equipped with taximeters – a device prohibited in PHVs.

In relation to the way Uber operates in London, TfL is satisfied that based upon our understanding of the relationship between the passenger and Uber London, and between Uber London and Uber BV, registered in Holland, that it is operating lawfully under the terms of the 1998 PHV(L) Act.

As the licensing authority TfL is bound to consider the initial licence application and has a duty to grant it unless we are not satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold an operator’s licence, or that the applicant has failed to met any further requirements that have been prescribed (such as those relating to operating centres). The company has taken steps and indeed made changes to its documentation to make it entirely clear as to who is accepting bookings.

Taking into account this, and having regard to case law relating to provisions outside London which are similar to s.2 of the PHV(L) Act 1998, TfL’s position, supported by legal advice, is that there are no grounds to take action against Uber London Ltd, Uber BV or Uber drivers under s.2 of the 1998 Act.

In respect of the taximeter issue, s.11 of the 1998 Act prohibits PHVs from being equipped with a taximeter. The latter is defined as a device for calculating the fare by means of time or distance (or both). However, it is not unlawful for a private hire operator to charge its customers on the basis of time taken and distance travelled in respect of journeys.

Uber drivers are issued with a smartphone. At the end of a journey the smart phone sends details of the journey to a remotely based server and then receives by return the fare to be charged.

TfL’s view is that smart phones that transmit location information (based on GPS data) between vehicles and operators, have no operational or physical connection with the vehicles, and receive information about fares which are calculated remotely from the vehicle, are not taximeters within the meaning of the legislation.

Nevertheless, given that the legislation predates the advent of smartphones, TfL accepts that this judgment is finely balanced. It is for that reason that TfL wrote to all interested parties and advised them of our intention to seek a definitive, and binding, declaration from the High court.

However, the LDTA has issued summonses in the Westminster Magistrates’ Court against a number of Uber drivers under s.11 of the 1998 Act. This now prevents TfL proceeding as we had intended as the High Court will not consider the issue whilst there are ongoing criminal proceedings on the same issues of law.

TfL is therefore now unable to seek early clarification from the High Court. In due course the LTDA summonses will be heard in the Magistrates’ court. The Magistrates’ decision is not binding, will almost certainly be appealed (by someone), which inevitably means the matter will end up, rather later than sooner, in the High Court.

I regret therefore that the essential, and binding, clarity about how the law should be applied in these circumstances will not be delivered for some considerable time.

Lastly although the most recent compliance check at the premises of Uber London Ltd involving several thousand records was entirely satisfactory, an earlier check did reveal a case where it appears a driver was not covered by insurance. Proceedings against Uber and the driver in respect of this are underway and this is consistent with the actions taken by TfL when it finds issues such as this. This is now a matter for the court.

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