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Taxi consultation welcomed

The Government is seeking views on proposed statutory guidance to taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) licensing authorities on how to use their licensing powers to protect children and vulnerable adults.

The Department for Transport Taxis Minister, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Nusrat Ghani said: “While the vast majority of drivers are safe and act responsibly, we have seen too many cases where taxi and minicab drivers have used their job to prey on vulnerable people, women and children. These rules would make sure that drivers are fit to carry passengers, keeping people safe while stopping those with bad intentions from getting behind the wheel of a taxi or minicab.”

As part of minimum standards, the Department will consider whether vehicles should be fitted with CCTV; with footage encrypted so it can only be accessed if a crime is reported. The Department’s view is that CCTV can provide ‘additional deterrence’; while admitting that ‘offences may still occur even with CCTV operating’. According to DfT draft guidance: “While only a small minority of licensing authorities have so far mandated all vehicles to be fitted with CCTV systems, the experience of those authorities that have has been positive for both passengers and drivers. In addition, the evidential benefits of CCTV may increase the level of reporting of sexual offences.”

As for whether video recording in taxis should also have audio, the draft guidance says audio should be only when ‘passengers (or drivers) consider it necessary and all parties should be made aware that a recording is being made’.

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The personal safety charity the Suzy Lamplugh Trust welcomed the DfT proposals, while adding that national standards must enable licensing authorities to carry out enforcement and compliance checks against any taxi and PHV in their area. The Trust called for guidance that would specify convictions that would be grounds for refusal or revocation of driver licences and the period for which these exclusions should apply.

Caroline Pidgeon, Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee said: “Anything that improves the safety of passengers has to be a good thing. We need to prevent the likes of John Worboys from being able to operate as a legitimate licensed driver again and stop the worrying numbers of sexual assaults in minicabs.

“The big miss in the government response to the DfT Review is the statutory definition of plying for hire not being resolved. This has long been a major bone of contention and it appears to be too hard to resolve, so they aren’t going to try. The good news is that Transport for London will be given legislative powers to regulate pedicabs.”

The consultation runs to Monday, April 22.


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