Cab boss blasts licence controls

PUBLISHED: 10:57 30 November 2006 | UPDATED: 11:17 06 May 2010

Flashback to last week's Comet

Flashback to last week's Comet

A TAXI association s general secretary has hit out against councils, following the revelation in last week s Comet that people with serious criminal convictions are being granted licences to drive taxis in Comet country. From statistics supplied by Steven

A TAXI association's general secretary has hit out against councils, following the revelation in last week's Comet that people with serious criminal convictions are being granted licences to drive taxis in Comet country.

From statistics supplied by Stevenage Borough Council, 35 out of 203 current private hire drivers, and 10 out of 140 current hackney carriage drivers in Stevenage have committed 162 offences between them.

These offences include causing death by reckless driving, drink driving, battery, causing actual bodily harm and possession of dangerous drugs.

Bryan Roland, general secretary of the National Private Hire Association, said: "Along comes a driver with a badge from a council and taxi firms take them on and are not entitled to ask for their Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check.

"The driver gets a copy of the check but the operator doesn't have a legal right to demand to see it.

"You are in an impossible position and have to trust the local authority not to grant licences to people who you would not employ.

"It's not the trade that wants blaming for taking on criminals, it's the local authority that gives them the licence in the first place.

"The public need protecting and the ludicrous thing is that it's the council's role to protect them.

"The public is entitled to ask why councils grant licences to these people.

"To me there is a strange conflict between what local authorities are saying they should be doing and what they are actually doing.

"The public and the trade look to their local authority to provide protection but there is obviously a yawning gap.

"The finger of suspicion should point at the councils and not at the trade."

Richard Evans, head of environmental health and licensing at Stevenage Borough Council, said: "Every person applying to become a taxi driver has to provide an enhanced CRB disclosure.

"A copy of this disclosure is sent by the CRB to the applicant for them to keep and taxi firms can ask to see it at any time.

"In addition, there is nothing preventing additional CRB applications being made by taxi firms.

"The council is legally required to grant a licence to an applicant unless they are considered not to be 'fit and proper' people to hold such a licence.

"If we have any information to suggest that a driver is dishonest, violent or otherwise a risk to the public we will refuse them a licence to drive a taxi.

"The vast majority of the taxi trade is 100 per cent behind us and has been actively involved in the formulation of the policies surrounding previous convictions and prosecutions."

l Last week The Comet reported that, despite using the Freedom of Information Act, Mid Beds District Council and North Herts District Council both refused to supply information regarding taxi drivers with criminal convictions in their region.

NHDC have now issued a statement saying: "Having made the decision whether a person is suitable or not, the information is held until the time for appeal is up and is then destroyed.

"Since the information is provided in confidence by potential drivers, and since the CRB recommended practice is that the data is only kept in exceptional circumstances, we are acting correctly in doing this.

"This procedure provides protection to the public and ensures that sensitive information is being processed properly and fairly.

"The council has excellent relations with the taxi drivers' own association which is as keen as we are to enforce high standards and enhance public confidence in the service."

According to the NHDC's statement of policy about the relevant convictions for drivers of hackney carriages, the minimum period you must be free of a conviction for a major traffic offence, such as dangerous driving or driving while disqualified, is two years, a violence offence is five years, an alcohol related motoring offence is five years and indecency is also five years.

The minimum period you must be free of a conviction for a Class A or B related drugs offence is five years, a Class C drugs offence is three years and dishonesty is also three years.

Mid Beds District Council is still refusing to provide the requested information.

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