Is your taxi safe? License review reveals criminal convictions

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Following a review of taxi licensing regulations, Leeds City Council has uncovered “a range of unreported convictions and police cautions” among the city’s taxi drivers, according to a report drafted for councillors.

Previously, Licensing checks were carried out at the point of renewal or following a complaint, but the Licensing Committee changed its policy to include random checks following the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal. The Alexis Jay inquiry, whose report was published in 2014, highlighted the role of taxi drivers in facilitating the abuse.

The Licensing Committee, which is responsible for taxi and private hire vehicles and their drivers, began the Disclosure and Barring Service checks for 6,000 licenses in November 2015. The Service (replacing CRB checks) accesses criminal records to ascertain whether or not a person is suitable for working with vulnerable groups, such as children.

The report states that “to date four decisions to revoke driver licences have been taken, with others cases receiving formal written warnings and/or training requirements, along with other decisions pending and awaiting further information” following the revelation of 61 undisclosed convictions and cautions.

The Committee has taken numerous other steps to ensure taxi safety in Leeds is maintained, including an assessment of the suitability of the initial licence application process. One concern of the Additional Licensing Safeguarding Proposals is with regard to non-UK citizens, because less personal information is available to Officers to aid them in making a “fit and proper” person assessment.

The Council acknowledges that it has “been reliant on information supplied personally by an applicant in the form of a ‘Police certificate of good character’ from foreign non EU countries, or personal references which lack professional focus, credibility, or opportunity to verify them in a credible way.”

A spokesman for Leeds City Council emphasised that “the safety of taxi and private hire passengers travelling in Leeds is always our primary concern,” while Union Community Officer Jamie Ali said that:

“While getting around Leeds is normally safe, it doesn’t hurt to take care of yourself. LUU has a partnership with Amber Cars which means students can give their student ID to the driver and collect it the next day from helpdesk at LUU, if you don’t have the money to get home. Always make sure that the cab you’re using is the one you’ve ordered. We also have the night bus which leaves from LUU until the early hours and it will get you to your front door for just £1, just ask about it at Helpdesk.”

Notably, the number of drivers of who have had licenses revoked following the licensing review represent 0.08 per cent of all those checked.

Sarah Berry

(Image: Amber Cars Leeds)

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