Licenses are being granted to drivers with violent criminal convictions due to inadequate regulation
A report launched today by Suzy Lamplugh Trust reveals that taxi and private hire vehicle licences are being granted to drivers with criminal convictions that include violent offences. Research indicates that passenger safety is being compromised because there are no national minimum standards to enforce sufficient safety checks for taxi and private hire vehicle licensing. Suzy Lamplugh Trust believes that the majority of drivers do not pose a personal safety risk to passengers and are being let down by a minority who are slipping through the net. Although taxi and private hire drivers hold a position of trust, transporting passengers who are often alone and in a locked vehicle, the highest level of criminal checks is not required in law, only recommended in guidelines. Passengers are therefore being left at risk. Research into safety checks for taxi and private hire vehicle drivers highlighted:
Almost all licensing authorities in England and Wales are failing to keep an accessible record of taxi and private hire drivers’ criminal convictions, with only 46 out of 316 local authorities able to provide detailed information about drivers’ criminal histories on request.
A significant number of licensed taxi and private hire vehicle drivers highlighted in the research have criminal records including convictions for actual bodily harm, common assault, speeding and drink driving.
Current taxi and private hire vehicle drivers have successfully applied for or renewed their licence despite having committed crimes in the last 6 years (since 2012). Licence holders’ convictions in this time included battery, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and speeding.
At least 865 drivers in the 38 licensing authorities which gave details of drivers with convictions in response to a freedom of information request have successfully applied for or renewed their licence despite having a criminal conviction. Some licensed taxi and private hire vehicle drivers have multiple convictions. One currently licensed driver has over 36 separate convictions dating from 1973 to 2017, with offences including actual bodily harm, taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent and threatening behaviour. These findings raise concerns that current taxi and private hire vehicle licensing requirements are not fit for purpose. The results illustrate inconsistent policies across different authorities about licences being awarded following convictions and other worrying patterns of behaviour by drivers including cautions and reprimands. Also of concern is the reportedly low number of disclosures made by the police to licensing authorities about offences and concerning behaviours by drivers that are committed in the time between checks that are carried out with the disclosure and barring service. In addition, the absence of a database collating the historical behaviour of individual licence applicants across England and Wales means that authorities lack vital knowledge about whether applicants have had licences refused by other local authorities. This lack of information compromises personal safety and may increase the likelihood of passengers becoming victims of crime. Suzy Lamplugh Trust is calling for national minimum standards on taxi and private hire vehicle licensing to be enforced across England and Wales. The charity believes that there is an urgent need for legislation setting out how information about criminal convictions and concerning behaviour by prospective drivers should be taken into account in decisions to grant licences. This consolidated legislative framework would, among other changes, make it a mandatory requirement for drivers to have an enhanced DBS check before their licence is granted, and prompt a review of the framework used by the police to make disclosures to licensing authorities about drivers’ behaviour. Rachel Griffin, Chief Executive of Suzy Lamplugh Trust, commented: ‘It is deeply troubling that there are taxi and minicab drivers with serious criminal convictions operating across the country. Our research has revealed a significant number of licenced drivers with serious criminal convictions, and due to the large number of local authorities who did not respond in detail to our freedom of information request, we are concerned that this is just the tip of the iceberg. “The ambiguity currently surrounding what constitutes a ‘fit and proper’ person with regards to taxi and private hire vehicle licensing is unacceptable. Inadequate regulations can, and in some cases have already, led to passengers being victimised by drivers with a known history of unsafe behaviour and even criminal convictions. Despite this, local authorities are continuing to take unnecessary risks when granting and renewing taxi and private hire vehicle licences. This must stop. “Suzy Lamplugh Trust is calling for legislative change to ensure that people are protected while using taxis and private hire vehicles. It is vital that all taxi and private hire vehicle drivers are held accountable to rigorous national licensing standards. These regulations must prioritise passenger safety; everyone who uses a taxi or private hire vehicle should be confident that their driver has been appropriately vetted, and that they will reach their destination safely.’ Sammy Woodhouse, survivor and campaigner of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation abuses, commented: “By introducing national minimum standards for licensing we can improve safety checks on drivers making it a safer and better trade for all. For example, having CCTV and audio in all taxis will help to prevent crime against passengers and drivers, as well as providing evidence when a crime is committed, thus better securing a conviction. “Rotherham is testimony that crime such as child sexual exploitation in the taxi and private hire trade has reached alarming proportions around the United Kingdom. Improvements to passenger safety can only be achieved by the government implementing national minimum standards in legislation for taxi and private hire licensing.” James Button, President of the Institute of Licensing commented: “National minimum standards for taxi and private hire drivers, vehicles and private hire operators are vital. Without them any attempts by licensing authorities to improve standards and remove unacceptable people and sub-standard vehicles from the trade are easily undermined by simply obtaining licences elsewhere. The current system places passengers at risk and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”