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South Ribble Council accused of failing to check school-run taxi drivers in new child abuse scandal

Posted by admin on April 19th, 2016

Source: Mirror

Children as young as five are alleged to have been targeted in South Ribble, Lancashire. Children as young as five were “sexually exploited” by taxi ­drivers after a local council failed to run background checks, a new report claims.

Drivers in South Ribble, Lancashire, have been accused of violating children while ­carrying out council-funded school runs, according to an interim review of the licensing of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles by South Ribble Council.

The horrifying report – which bears troubling similarities to the Rotherham sex abuse scandal – claims children were being put at risk on their daily commute. It classes the failure of ­authorities to vet 44 of its drivers as particularly severe, since a report into the Rotherham attacks had warned 1,400 victims were picked up by taxis from school and children’s homes.

The report – ordered by the Cabinet after a string of local government failings – details one shocking case involving a five-year-old girl whose family claim she is so disturbed she can no longer socialise with other children.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided the five-year-old victim was too young to give evidence – even though the report noted that “police believed the driver had ­committed the offence”. And for months the accused driver was allowed to keep his taxi licence until a few weeks ago when the girl’s family won a fight to make the council revoke it.

Two licensing officers who allegedly issued licences without checks have now been ­suspended in light of the report, but the victims’ families claim it is not enough.

The aunt of the five-year-old girl said: “My niece has been left totally traumatised. “She’s gone back to wetting herself and sits alone in the ­playground during breaks. “She told her mum this man had touched her inappropriately.

“He was on police bail but he kept his licence and was still driving around until a few weeks ago when the authority finally stepped in and revoked his licence. “It’s an absolute disgrace. “He’s been driving around picking up schoolchildren and all the while the council did nothing.”

In another incident, a 16 year old, who was taken to school as part of a contract with Lancashire County Council, feared she was going to be raped by a driver. “It is claimed he propositioned the “vulnerable” teen but the council failed to revoke his licence.

The report reads: “Driver in case A transported a vulnerable 16-year-old girl as part of a school contract for Lancashire County Council. A complaint was received by the county council that this driver made inappropriate ­sexualised remarks to the girl. “The driver in case B was arrested for a sexual offence against a primary school age girl.

“The CPS decided not to ­proceed with prosecution against the driver because of potential difficulties in such a young ­witness giving evidence. “However, police have been clear that they consider the driver did commit the offence. “It is reasonable to assume the driver poses a safeguarding risk.”

Yet licensing officers tasked with investigating the alleged abuses failed to take action and didn’t interview the drivers “under caution” or take ­statements from the witnesses. Instead, their report states, they appeared to allow the police investigation to “lead their own”.

It also states no “significant data sharing” took place between the Tory-led South Ribble Borough Council and police. And a handwritten note by the 16 year old “expressing fears of being raped by the driver” was present in a paper file but never presented to the General Licensing Committee.

Lawyers brought in to carry out the independent review, said they had spoken to a number of council officers and examined documents. The report also found ­“inadequate appreciation” of the council’s duty to protect children and members of public who use taxis.

In a formal statement, South Ribble Borough Council said: “We are currently investigating a number of issues within the licensing section. “The council takes matters of public safety extremely seriously and we are currently undertaking a full review of all taxi licences, including drivers and vehicles.

“Where issues have been highlighted, these have been rectified without incident. “Two licensing officers are currently suspended subject to ongoing disciplinary proceedings. “We continue to operate a full licensing service in the meantime. “An independent investigation is ongoing and will be published in due course. “We are unable to comment further at this stage.”

South Ribble councillor Matthew Tomlinson, who is also a Lancashire County Councillor and Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Schools, said he was “appalled” by the report.

He said: “If something goes wrong with regard to child safeguarding you should throw the doors open and say, ‘My God, this is terrible’ and ‘We need help,’ but this looks as if the council has tried to bury it for as long as it possibly could. Trying to cover the initial issue is what gets you in a mess.

“We all must look at what’s happened in other places like Rotherham and be vigilant that it’s not happening on our doorstep, but it appears South Ribble has failed in that respect.

“I was only made aware of this interim report at the end of last week from colleagues at South Ribble and, as far as I’m aware, as a County Council we still haven’t officially been told about the difficulties. “I’ve heard everything second-hand.”

Is Rotherham repeating itself? The latest revelations are particularly chilling in light of the widespread sexual abuse that occurred in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, between 1997 and 2013. Then, the local council, police and other authorities effectively covered-up the sexual exploitation of an estimated 1,400 children, mainly by men of Pakistani-Muslim heritage – many of them were taxi drivers.

Local investigations began into alleged abuse in 1999, but reports were lost, stolen, never finished or made public. The Home Affairs Select Committee later slammed the handling of the hundreds of cases of rape, abduction, sex trafficking and torture of young people. Home Secretary Theresa May blamed the failures on “institutionalised political correctness”.

The leader of Rotherham Borough Council, Roger Stone, resigned, as did the council’s Chief Executive, Martin Kimber, and the Director of Children’s Services, Joyce Thacker. Around 25 taxi drivers lost their licences over fears they helped trafficked victims.

Sarah Wilson was 11 when a man raped her in a school playground at night. She was driven across the country to be raped by multiple men. Asked what she thought of police and her social workers, she said:
“Crap, they’re just crap.”

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Dudley taxis to get CCTV to tackle violence against cabbies

Posted by admin on April 3rd, 2016

Source: Express and Star

Taxis in Dudley will have CCTV installed under plans to tackle violence against drivers and child abuse. The move comes after a driver was attacked and left seriously injured in the street in Brierley Hill.

Mohammed Ahmed was badly beaten and was taken to hospital after the attack in Bell Street South on February 28. Officials say the cameras would also boost safety in the wake of child sexual exploitation in other parts of the country.

A consultation will be launched into the scheme with the cameras recording people travelling inside taxis in the borough. And the cameras would also be used to capture those damaging taxis or making off without paying. Dudley Council’s taxi committee will outline a consultation into the policy at its meeting on Tuesday.

Dudley Private Hire and Taxi Association chairman Shaz Saleem said he was broadly in favour of the scheme. But sought information on how it would be funded and who had control of the footage.

“Having CCTV would protect drivers and customers and ensure safety,” he said. “It would act as a deterrent to people. We have had drivers who have been abused, some of them have been hit, and some customers have been making off with paying.” “It is about safety. It is not a question of spying on people.”

He added: “My main questions over it is who is funding it. Also will the council have access to the CCTV.”

Dudley Council’s taxi committee chairman, Councillor Richard Body, said the consultation would discover more information on how to implement the policy. Options will be explored to either force the compulsory fitting of CCTV, allowing it to be optional for drivers or scraping the plan altogether. It is expected to report back within around three months.

The plans come as training is planned for borough cabbies to spot the signs of child exploitation by those customers using taxis. This following concerns of their involvement in the recent Rotherham scandal.

Councillor Body said: “Cameras in taxis have worked in places like Rotherham and London. “At the moment it will be a consultation looking into the issues and that way everyone can give their views. “I believe it would be a good idea. It could be that CCTV would go in Hackney carriages first as they pick people off the street. “I would advise private hire taxis to do it to.”

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Manchester taxi driver spent FOUR hours caring for stranded pensioner he found at bus stop

Posted by admin on March 17th, 2016

Source: Manchester Evening News

Taxi driver Kamaran Rasheed, 44, was commended by GMP’s Chief Constable Ian Hopkins after he spent four hours caring for a vulnerable pensioner

A taxi driver who spent four hours caring for a vulnerable pensioner after discovering him cold and disorientated in a bus stop has been honoured by GMP’s Chief Constable.

Kamaran Rasheed came to the aid of William Place, 87, after he ended up locked out of his home. Mr Place had been visiting his wife Moreen at the Manchester Royal Infirmary earlier that evening but lost track of time and left later than normal.

When he arrived home, he found the entrance to his shared sheltered housing in Manchester had been padlocked shut, and he didn’t have a key. Confused, the pensioner wandered onto Stockport Road to the bus shelter where he was seen by Mr Rasheed, 44, at around 2am.

Knowing that the bus service had stopped for the evening, Mr Rasheed dropped off his fare and went back to the bus stop to offer Mr Place a lift home free of charge. He decided to stop off at McDonalds to get the retired police officer a hot drink to warm him up before taking him to Longsight Police Station.

It was at this point that PC Peter Crowe drove past and approached the pair thinking it was a dispute. He was soon heartened to learn that Mr Rasheed in fact intended to take Mr Place home for food and a warm bed, or to pay for a hotel room for him. They took him home but were unable to enter the property.

In total, Mr Rasheed stayed with Mr Place for four hours.

Chief Constable Ian Hopkins branded his actions a “glowing example of community spirit”. “Mr Rasheed’s dedication ensured that this vulnerable man was looked after and rescued him from a potentially serious situation and I’m delighted that William is now safe and well. “His actions that night deserve to be recognised. I am proud to be able to award him with a Chief Constable’s Commendation.”

Mr Rasheed, who is also a foster carer, said: “At first I only stopped to tell him that the buses had stopped, but he told me he wasn’t waiting for a bus. I offered him a lift and took him to get a warm drink before I took him to the station. I just did it because it was the right thing to do

“It’s wonderful to receive this commendation. It was new experience and I never thought I would be recognised with anything like this so I’m really proud.”

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‘I wouldn’t touch a night shift with a bargepole’: Former Boston taxi driver after man attacked at rank

Posted by admin on February 27th, 2016

Source: Lincolnshire Echo

Police have revealed that a gang of up to eight people were involved in a vicious attack which left a Boston area man with serious facial injuries.

The assault was so serious that Lincolnshire Police have released CCTV images of people they want to interview after he was set upon at a town centre taxi rank in the early hours.

And now a former woman taxi driver has revealed that she wouldn’t work a weekend night shift because of the fear of violence. She spoke as a taxi firm manager which uses the rank outside Boots confirmed that late-night incidents were all too frequent.

The local man was left with a serious injury to his jaw after being assaulted at the taxi rank. And the Valentine’s Day incident is being treated by officers from the force as “a serious assault.”

It happened at around 4am on Sunday, February 14 outside Boots at the taxi rank in Boston. Officers say a 26-year-old local man was seriously assaulted and suffered a serious injury to his jaw as well as various bruises and abrasions.

Investigating officer Detective Constable Sue-Ellen Wilson released the CCTV images in bid to identify individuals in a group caught on camera by the borough council’s town centre network. “We heard all about this attack at the taxi rank and it’s really unfortunate that the CCTV images aren’t the best,” said the former driver who would only be identified as Debbie.

“Taxi drivers working weekends have to put up with so much now – years ago it was just a case of taking people home safely, “The behaviour of people who are drinking in the town centre until the early hours of the morning has got worse and worse down the years,

“Rudeness and verbal assaults on drivers are now accepted as part of the job. “But now men and women, both local and other nationalities, seem to have absolutely no respect for authority or the police if they’re at the scene. “Years ago I’d work a night shift on the taxis – but now I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole.”

Swift Taxis manager Sean Mooney said at the firm’s Tenens Way offices: “I was out at 1.30am last Saturday morning in West Street and had to swerve to avoid a group who were fighting in the street. “It’s a regular occurrence at weekends, it’s happening all the time.”

Lincolnshire Police spokesman Nerys McGarry said: “We believe that up to eight people may have been involved in this attack. “The victim isn’t English-speaking, but he is recovering and we really need to trace the people who were involved in the incident. “No witnesses have so far come forward since the CCTV images were released.”

Anyone who knows the people in the pictures or who witnessed the assault should call Lincolnshire Police on 101 quoting incident number 75 of February 14. Or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

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Private operators given six months to comply with new Bradford Council rules

Posted by admin on February 18th, 2016

Source: Telegraph and Argus

LICENSED operators of private hire and hackney carriage vehicles operating across the Bradford district have six months to comply with new rules being enforced by the Council.

The authority’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee yesterday unanimously approved plans by Bradford Licensing Service designed to create a uniform approach for standards across West Yorkshire.

The committee was told that at present, a hackney carriage can lawfully be used for pre-booked work outside its district, with around 200 out-of-area drivers currently operating across Bradford, many from the Lancashire borough of Rossendale.

Under the new rules, advance bookings taken for hackney carriage vehicles licensed by another authority must be maintained in a completely separate register of bookings, available for inspection by the Council.

A separate telephone line and number must also be used, with a pre-recorded intercept message on the unique booking line stating that the driver and vehicle is not licensed by Bradford Council, with customers having to deal with the relevant licensing authority in the event of any complaint.

Chairman of the committee, Councillor David Warburton (Lab, Wyke), said: “Safeguarding the public is our top priority, and this will help in bringing all West Yorkshire authorities together.”

Operators must officially adhere to the new guidelines by August 17.

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Black cabs not unique, high court rules, paving way for ‘green’ taxis

Posted by admin on January 22nd, 2016

Source: The Guardian

A high court judge has ruled that one of London’s most famous sights, the black cab, is not that unique after all, concluding that they are “devoid of inherent distinctive character”.

Mr Justice Arnold said that the taxis are “merely a variation of the typical shape of a car” and ruled that trademarks exclusively relating to its shape should be deemed invalid.

He made the judgment on Wednesday after a legal row between the manufacturer of the traditional London taxi and the group behind a new eco-friendly cab. The ruling paves the way for the “green” taxis to hit London’s roads over the next few years.

Arnold said: “In my view the CTM [the design of the black cab] would have been perceived by the average consumer of taxis as merely a variation of the typical shape of a taxi.

“I should make it clear that, if one considers the question from the perspective of the average consumer of cars, in my view the CTM would be perceived as merely a variation of the typical shape of a car.”

The two trademarks in question during the hearing related to three-dimensional drawings of the exterior of the typical black cab.

The London Taxi Company, which is owned by Chinese group Geely, had claimed the new Metrocab was “substantially copied” from the design of the TX4, the latest version of the hackney carriage.

The Metrocab is a hybrid-powered taxi developed by Frazer-Nash Research and Ecotive. The zero-emissions vehicle uses an electric battery and a petrol engine, which extends the range of the battery.

The judge dismissed fraud allegations by the London Taxi Company as “deeply implausible” and said that even if the trademarks were valid then the Metrocab was not simply a copy of the TX4.

The Metrocab is scheduled to go into bulk production later this year and is at the forefront of a drive by Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, to ensure that all new taxis are zero-emission by 2018. Geely has pledged to invest £250m into a new facility in Coventry to produce greener versions of its black cab.

Peter Johansen, the chief executive of the London Taxi Company, said: “We are understandably disappointed by the judge’s ruling. We will review the ruling to determine our way forward.”

The London Taxi Company has been in operation since 1899, with black cabs going on to become one of the symbols of London.

A fleet of black cabs featured in the closing ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics, and last year it was voted as London’s favourite transport “design icon” in a survey conducted by Transport for London (TfL) and the London Transport Museum.

It represents another blow for the traditional London taxi as it battles against the rise of Uber, the car-hire smartphone app.

TfL announced on Wednesday that after conducting a consultation it would not be introducing proposed new regulations that would have affected Uber, including forcing minicab operators to provide booking confirmation details to the passenger at least five minutes before a journey starts.

The high court decision follows a similar ruling on Wednesday about KitKat, with the same judge deciding that Nestlé could not trademark the shape of its chocolate bar.

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