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PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 10:12 am 
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TAXI TERROR As the number of cabbies accused of rape and assault increases, could your taxi driver be a sex offender?

https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/10452 ... -offender/

WITH a rising number of UK cabbies accused of rape and sexual assault, Fabulous investigates just how safe you are travelling home after a night out.

When her taxi driver cancelled their journey on the app, then leant over and put his hand suggestively on her thigh, Sophie* was so overcome with horror that she blacked out.

The driver then drove the unconscious 18-year-old to a secluded street where he sexually assaulted her.

When she briefly came to, he forced her to perform a sex act on him, then abandoned her outside her parents’ home – just minutes from where the horrifying ordeal took place on December 13, 2015.

“I felt so violated,” recalls Sophie, a psychology student. “I’d trusted him to get me home safely and he’d taken advantage of that.”

Startling new figures released this year show that the attack on Sophie, now 22, in a taxi was far from an isolated case.

In 2018, police conducted 151 rape enquiries into taxi drivers and investigated a further 353 sexual assault allegations – a 4% increase from 2017.

However, the true total could be even higher as only 23 of the 44 police forces in England and Wales answered a Freedom of Information Request – and the number of survivors too traumatised to report their attackers is likely to be significant.

In the past decade, 131 drivers have been found guilty of sex offences against passengers in the UK, with 42 convicted of rape, including infamous “black cab rapist” John Worboys and Christopher Halliwell, who was jailed in 2012 for sexually assaulting and murdering Sian O’Callaghan, 22, and Becky Godden, 20.

There are now 362,600 licensed drivers of taxis or private hire vehicles in England, but not all local authorities issuing licences require applicants to pass enhanced criminal record checks – this means someone previously convicted of a sexual offence could get a licence.

According to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust – a UK charity for personal safety – 865 drivers with criminal convictions were issued licences in England and Wales last year.

In February, then transport minister Nusrat Ghani admitted that there have been “too many cases where taxi and minicab drivers have used their job to prey on vulnerable people, women and children.”

For Sophie, the trauma of what happened that night in the taxi will never leave her.

“I’d been out with friends and we’d had a great time. It was 1.30am and as no one was going my way, I ordered an Uber on my own,” she says.

“I’d used the app plenty of times before, so I thought I was safe. When it arrived the back doors were locked so I was forced to get into the front, where the driver started asking me uncomfortable sexual questions, such as whether I had a boyfriend and if I was good in bed,” she says.

“I was uncomfortable, but assumed I would be safe as the app would track my journey and he was taking me the right way.

But when we got to the main road outside my parents’ house, he cancelled the trip on his phone so it looked as though he had dropped me home.

He then leant over and put his hand on my thigh. At that point I blacked out, which my counsellor would later explain was caused by a mix of adrenalin and alcohol.

When I woke up the next day, I couldn’t remember anything about the attack or getting out of the taxi. It wasn’t until that afternoon that something in my head clicked and it all came flooding back. I realised that I’d been sexually assaulted.”

After her flashback, Sophie messaged a friend who accompanied her to a police station, where she was interviewed by police but not physically examined. “I didn’t feel like I was taken seriously,” says Sophie, who also reported the events to Uber and her local city council.

However, one month later, Sophie received a call from police to say they were investigating whether another woman, Helen*, had been sexually assaulted in similar circumstances, just days before Sophie’s ordeal.

Despite Helen reporting the attack to the police and Uber on December 7, the day after it happened, she was never physically examined and didn’t have swabs taken.

After an initial interview, police later informed Helen that as the driver was out of the country at the time of the alleged attack they were not going to pursue the case and the driver would remain free to work.

“Hearing Helen’s story was a huge blow,” admits Sophie. “If the correct steps had been taken and he’d been arrested after the first attack, then I could have been spared the ordeal of going through the same thing.”

Even though the police launched an investigation into both cases as a result of the two alleged attacks, no criminal charges were ever levelled against the driver due to “evidential difficulties”.

In a separate investigation by the city council, it was discovered that while the driver was a licensed Uber driver, he had been using his brother’s login details to access the app and find jobs.

As a result of the incidents, the driver – who denied both attacks – had his licence revoked by the council the following year.

He later appealed this decision, and both Helen and Sophie were forced to give evidence via video link in a court case in November 2017.

The judge ruled that on the “balance of probabilities” the driver had assaulted the two women and upheld the decision to revoke his taxi licence.

Sophie recalls: “Going over all of the details was one of the worst experiences of my life and almost as traumatic as the event itself.

"I was glad that he would no longer have a taxi licence, but I knew how easy it was for him to log into his brother’s account and drive under his name.

"I live in constant fear that he is still using the app to prey on women.”

Unhappy with the outcome of the police investigation, in early 2018 Sophie and Helen hired law firm Irwin Mitchell and argued in civil proceedings that Uber was liable for the incidents as it had a duty of care to protect their passengers – which it had failed to provide when the women were sexually assaulted.

Despite Uber denying any liability in the case, in June 2019 the company agreed to a five-figure out-of- court settlement with the two women.

Sophie – who was diagnosed with PTSD in June 2018 and spent five months in therapy – has been deeply affected by the ordeal.

“The case took over my life for three years,” she says.

“I’ve since told my parents and they were incredibly supportive, but I’m still too distraught to talk to them about the full details.

"For a long time I struggled to trust strangers and had panic attacks if I ever needed a taxi.

"The counselling helped and now I finally feel like I’m starting to move on with my life.”

But it’s not just Uber in the firing line. A report by the Department for Transport in October 2018 found laws regulating taxi drivers are not “fit for the modern world”, and proposed strict new reforms.

These include compulsory criminal record checks, CCTV in vehicles and stopping drivers who are refused a licence in one authority being free to work in another.

Yet this October, then Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps confirmed the government no longer planned on bringing in new taxi licensing laws, and instead wanted to focus on updating current statutory guidance.

Saskia Garner, a spokesperson from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, is urging the government to reconsider this U-turn.

“Guidelines are being ignored,” she says. “We need to change the law so those with a violent history or who have committed sexual offences aren’t even considered for a licence, as well as making it more obvious to customers what is and isn’t a licensed cab.”

This is something that could have prevented Sarah Thompson, 25, from getting into what she believed to be a licensed taxi after a night out celebrating her friend’s 22nd birthday on March 31, 2013.

Sarah, from Northamptonshire, was raped by bogus cabbie Shakeel Ahmed, who was prowling the streets of Birmingham in his car.

The mum of one recalls: “I came out of a nightclub at around 12.30am and made my way towards a line of taxis parked on the side of the road.

I asked Ahmed if he was a cabbie and whether he could take me home, to which he said yes.

I went to get in the back seat but the door was locked – I thought it was a bit unusual, but I got in the front anyway.

I told him the name of my hotel, but on the way, he drove me to a quiet street where he pulled over and started kissing me aggressively. I was so scared that I lost consciousness.”

Sarah, who works in a sorting office, came to while Ahmed was lying on top of her. After he’d finished assaulting her, Ahmed unlocked the doors and Sarah escaped.

Two female passengers in another taxi came to her rescue when they saw her screaming for help across the street, and called the police, who took her to a station to be interviewed and examined.

In December 2013, Ahmed, of Sparkhill, Birmingham, was arrested, thanks to witness statements and CCTV.

He was jailed for five years at Birmingham Crown Court, after being found guilty of sexual assault by penetration. While justice was served, after the trial was over Sarah struggled to cope.

“I stopped going out and drinking, I saw every man as a sexual predator, and didn’t feel comfortable getting into taxis,” she says.

“I also got stuck in an unhealthy relationship thinking that no other man would ever want to have me. I felt like a damaged person.” Sarah said she never received counselling or therapy, and instead confided in her mother.

However, in May 2016, after splitting with her ex, Sarah got together with her current partner Lee Wilson. “We met at work and before we were in a relationship I told him what had happened.

He was so understanding and helped me finally move on,” says Sarah. “A year later I fell pregnant with our son Finley, now two, and now I’m expecting our second child.

Although my life has settled, for years Ahmed robbed me of my joy and my freedom.”

So what is the safest option for getting home after a night out? Uber – who, at the time of going to press, had until November 25 to prove to Transport for London that it can “ensure passenger safety” to continue to operate in the capital after having its permanent licence taken away in London in 2017 – has introduced new safety measures, including being able to notify your driver that you don’t wish to talk, an emergency assistance button, a 24/7 support centre and “Check Your Ride” – a notification reminding users to confirm the number plate, vehicle model and driver’s photo before starting their trip.

Taxi app Gett only works with licensed cabs, and Taxiapp’s drivers have been DBS (Disclosure and Barring) checked.

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust adds: “The majority of drivers are above board, but passengers should always be aware.

"We advise getting the driver to confirm who they’re picking up before disclosing your name, always sitting in the back of the car behind the driver and watching where the driver is going.”

But for Sophie, her ordeal has changed the way she travels forever. “Laws need to be changed to stop attacks like mine,” she says.

“Yes, I can ask my Uber driver not to talk to me via a setting in the app – but that’s not going to stop anyone who has intent to harm.

"It’s horrible to think that the people we trust to get us home safely might be the ones we have to be most afraid of.

"To be on the safe side, I always make sure I get a lift home from a sober friend or at least share a cab with friends after a night out now.”

*Names have been changed


New Uber safety features revealed

Here are some of the new Uber safety features added since TfL's landmark probation ruling in September 2017...

    - A dedicated Safety Toolkit in the Uber app means that riders and drivers can easily access important features to keep them safe and prevent incidents

    - Trusted Contacts: Designate up to five friends and family members to be prompted to follow your journey with live trip details

    - Emergency assistance: Connect directly with emergency services through the app. The app will show your real-time location and vehicle information

    - Address anonymisation: In addition to rider and driver mobile numbers, rider’s specific pick-up and drop-off addresses are now concealed

    - In-app safety centre for drivers: Uber’s one-stop shop for safety resources includes tips, insurance protections and community guidelines

    - Check Your Ride alerts help make sure riders are getting into the correct licensed vehicle

    - Cycle lane alerts notify riders to check for cyclists before opening the door near a cycle path

    - Uber's 24/7 support centre is staffed by 300 specially trained agents dedicated to improving the safety of drivers and riders

    - Limits to driver hours mean that a licensed driver can only spend 10 hours en route to, and on-trip with, a passenger before they are required to log out


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 7:11 pm 
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Quote:
There are now 362,600 licensed drivers of taxis or private hire vehicles in England, but not all local authorities issuing licences require applicants to pass enhanced criminal record checks – this means someone previously convicted of a sexual offence could get a licence.

And there was me thinking it was the law.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 7:58 am 
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Please note that I've arranged for an extremely long and off-topic post in this thread to be transferred to another section - Politics seems about right =D>

If anyone doesn't want to read an article because they don't like the source, then that's fine, but anything I post includes the link to the source, so anyone who doesn't like it doesn't have to read it :shock:

In fact, in this case I even included the name of the source in the title of the thread to flag it up, so no need to even click on it if it's likely to cause offence :roll:

But no need to divert a topic from trade issues to things that are better discussed elsewhere [-(


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 11:12 am 
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Well I quite like the Sun.

Always surprised when some blank the Sun due to the coverage of the Hillsborough tragedy, but don't seem to mind taking the 10s of millions of pounds from Sky.

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