Taking it out on taxi drivers

PUBLISHED: 11:12 30 November 2006 | UPDATED: 11:17 06 May 2010

Your headline: Whose car are you in? re licences granted to drivers with serious criminal convictions. I myself work in Goldstar taxis office and have also worked in the Stevenage taxi office and I found your reporter Louise McEvoy s comments distasteful,

Your headline: Whose car are you in? re licences granted to drivers with serious criminal convictions.

I myself work in Goldstar taxis office and have also worked in the Stevenage taxi office and I found your reporter Louise McEvoy's comments distasteful, inaccurate and very damaging for the people of Stevenage who rely on said taxi firms for their daily travel. Is it the aim of your reporter to scare customers into not using and potentially damaging said businesses and to bring the whole service into disrepute? I know many of the drivers, both hackney carriage and private hire in Stevenage and found them to be upstanding, dependable and safe drivers. I notice that your reporter failed to mention the abuse, threats, injuries which these so called criminals have to endure! Not to mention countless times of non payment due to dishonest public! All drivers go through rigorous police and council checks before being issued a badge, those who do not fit the grade do not get badges, it is that simple!! All your reporter has achieved is to issue a scare tactic to the general public, who like the many drivers will ultimately suffer because of this.

The Comet is the people's paper of Herts, but are you objective enough to print the countless responses you will receive on this issue?

J ATKINS, Stevenage

* The general public should not have to use a taxi driven by anyone with a criminal record.

North Herts and Mid Beds Councils should be made to disclose information they hold regarding these drivers. It is in the interest of public safety that they should know just whose taxi they are getting into, and how safe their property is going to be while they are away when they book a taxi to the airport.

NAME AND ADDRESS WITHHELD

* My thanks to Louise McEvoy for her article (Whose car are you in?) on November 23.

In my view, Richard Evans and Richard Henry should not hold the positions which they do, since by their actions, they have put the general public in danger and should anything happen to a member of the public whilst in a taxi, they should be held accountable. How often, may I ask, do they use the local taxi service? We will wait for a bus from now on.

NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED

* Regarding: Whose car are you in? OK, so people with serious criminal convictions are being granted licences to drive taxis in Comet country as you say, but on looking at the criminal convictions you list to me it seems that the majority of these could apply to absolutely anyone in any occupation! Not just taxi drivers! Hypothetically, there could be an employee at a bank call centre for instance with a past criminal conviction such as 'damage to property', which you list. This person could have all your bank and personal details to hand! There is a broader spectrum to this issue than you state, so why isolate taxi drivers in this?

I admit that three of the criminal convictions you have listed shock me, in the fact that these drivers have 'slipped through the net' as it were during either the enhanced CRB check, (which I am aware is extremely thorough and tough to get through), or the hackney carriage licence issuer's attention, these are the offences listed of death by reckless driving and driving whilst disqualified, also failure to give information as to identity of driver.

As your article did not state whether the other actual driving offences listed were carried out during the drivers' working hours I presume they were not and therefore again, these could happen to anyone in any occupation in any walk of life, again I ask, why isolate the taxi drivers in this?

I have considered the issue of the element of risk involved with these taxi drivers with a criminal conviction background, transporting minors (i.e. children under 16 years old). But even on looking into this, the enhanced CRB checks undertaken on these drivers filter out any drivers with any previous sexual offence related criminal conviction and these applicants will not under any circumstances be granted a hackney carriage licence. (Let's hope the CRB enhanced checks do not fail on these issues, and if these incidences do occur, the ones that come to public knowledge seem to be isolated incidences thank heavens.) As to transporting minors with a 'non related sexual offence criminal conviction', which is the case for all these drivers, I am sure the risk to the minors is no greater than in any other walk of life.

I have used local taxis in the Hitchin area regularly over the last few years and have found no cause for concern in the least. Certainly, the Hitchin taxi company 'Castle', has always seemed to me, to employ very courteous drivers indeed, through my personal experience of using that company on a regular basis.

I strongly uphold Richard Evans', (head of Environmental Health and Licensing - Stevenage Borough Council) comment in your article... "We will not hesitate to use the powers at our disposal in the interests of public safety but local authorities must balance this with the human right for people to be able to earn a living." Yes .. it should be exactly this ... 'the human right for people to be able to earn a living', taxi driver or not in any reasonable walk of life.

NAME AND ADDRESS WITHHELD

* I write in response to last week's front page article regarding taxi drivers.

I am gravely concerned about the effect on both the taxi drivers and the taxi trade after your article sensationalised statistics dating back to 1959.

Your story depicts taxi drivers as being untrusting ex-cons, whereas in reality they are honest, hard working and responsible members of the community, working long hours trying to earn a living to support their families and contributing to the financial infrastructure of this town.

In a trade which a recent survey showed to be the most difficult and stressful place to work, it is unfair to give such exposure (full front page) to one item of news.

Taxi drivers in Stevenage go through rigorous testing before they are issued with a licence to drive a cab. Regular meetings with council officers, police and taxi operators are held to continually improve the standard of service provided.

Most people turn to driving taxis often as a last resort, as it is a flexible profession with hours to suit, enabling members of this community to contribute to the state benefit 'pot' instead of taking from it.

As well as proving a year long, non-stop, door-to-door service to the young and old, sick and healthy for long or short essential journeys.

Noreen Rehman, Company Secretary, ACE Taxis (Stevenage Ltd)

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