Taxi and private hire vehicle licences granted to drivers with criminal convictions due to inadequate regulations
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
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
- 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
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
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.’
Note to editors:
For further information, please contact Saskia Garner at Suzy Lamplugh Trust at email@example.com or 07747 611 308.
Suzy Lamplugh Trust is the UK’s leading personal safety charity. Our
vision is a society in which people are safer - and feel safer - from
violence and aggression; we want people to be able to live life to the
Figures are collated from responses to individual freedom of
information requests made to local authorities. Every licensing
authority in England and Wales was sent an FOI request. The requests
were made between August and December 2017.