Taxi drivers hit out at council giving licences to convicted criminals
TAXI drivers have hit out at a council after discovering people with serious criminal convictions are being granted licences to drive cabs in Comet country. Last week, following an investigation using the Freedom of Information Act, The Comet revealed peo
TAXI drivers have hit out at a council after discovering people with serious criminal convictions are being granted licences to drive cabs in Comet country.
Last week, following an investigation using the Freedom of Information Act, The Comet revealed people with convictions for serious crimes including abduction, underage sex and battery hold current licences to drive taxis in Stevenage.
Kevin Ward has been a taxi driver in Stevenage for 30 years. He said: "I'm absolutely stunned by this."
As an employer of taxi drivers, he said he trusts Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) to be stringent when it grants licences.
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"I have to question the council's judgment," he said.
SBC carries out Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks on would-be taxi drivers before deciding whether to grant them a cab licence or not.
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Taxi firm bosses are not permitted to see the CRB checks. "As an operator we don't have any idea of their convictions," Mr Ward explained.
"If they are getting through at council level, the problem doesn't lie with the proprietor, so you can't blame the companies. You have to look to the people who licence the drivers.
"If it carries on the way it's going, the council is going to decimate the trade."
Another Stevenage taxi driver and cab firm proprietor, who did not want to be named, said he would like to be able to request SBC shows him the CRB checks of employees and potential employees.
"I really don't know if my drivers are good, and I use them for school contracts," he said.
"If there really are the wrong kind of people in this business, there is cause for rooting them out, especially when they come into contact with vulnerable people.
"How these characters slip through the net is baffling to us."
Emma Rose, head of Environmental Health and Licensing at SBC, said: "When we developed and implemented our policy on convictions, taxi drivers, vehicle proprietors and operators were rigorously consulted alongside other transport providers and taxi users.
"The policy is a guide for us to make consistent and fair decisions about applications.
"It takes into account the nature of the crime and how long ago it was committed.
"We are not permitted to share the CRB certificates we obtain.
"However, the applicant also receives a copy directly from the CRB and they can share that with an employer, or anyone else, if they wish to.