More taxi drivers than ever have criminal records
PUBLISHED: 09:01 05 June 2008 | UPDATED: 22:23 26 October 2009
MORE drivers than ever with past criminal convictions have been granted licences to drive taxis in Welwyn Hatfield. Two years on from an exclusive WHT investigation, new figures prove the situation is worse. More than ONE THIRD of all new cabbies have pr
MORE drivers than ever with past criminal convictions have been granted licences to drive taxis in Welwyn Hatfield.
Two years on from an exclusive WHT investigation, new figures prove the situation is worse.
More than ONE THIRD of all new cabbies have previous convictions, although many were committed a number of years ago.
Double the amount of private hire drivers - those booked in advance - now have offences against their names, compared to 2006.
Recorded crimes include kerb crawling, drink driving, kidnap, sexual assault against a child, GBH, harassment, perverting the course of justice and drug importation.
The majority of these are old convictions.
They would be considered "spent convictions" under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and normally do not have to be declared, but they are still taken into consideration - irrespective of when the offence was committed - when drivers apply to ferry the public
The number of Hackney Carriage licence holders - those who can pick people up from the rank - with previous convictions has also grown by one third.
The new figures obtained by the WHT in a Freedom of Information request show licences have been granted to 76 new drivers since our 2006 investigation.
But how the 29 with previous convictions were deemed "fit and proper" has baffled one ex-councillor, who was on the Hackney Carriage committee, which adjudicates on licence applications.
Jacqui Russell, who sat on the panel until last month, said the list of convictions was shocking.
She claimed councillors were in the dark over these convictions, which only ever come to light if a driver is brought before them to have a licence revoked for a further offence.
She said: "If these went to the panel, they wouldn't get a licence.
"People who drink drive shouldn't get a licence, it's the worst offence.
"This list makes me realise there are people being approved who don't come to the panel.
"They wouldn't be approved if they did."
She added: "The drivers are basically a good bunch.
"We should go through this list now and they should go to the panel for a full investigation.
"That means a driver can have committed X, Y, Z and they can be trusted with the public."
* THE Hackney Carriage committee's ex-chairman Bernard Sarson, sought to reassure the public.
He said although drivers with previous convictions are granted licences, the public's interests are at the forefront of his mind.
He said: "Some of these offences are 20 years old, people do change.
"Each case has to be judged on its own merits.
"The main concern of the committee is to put the public first.
"I have got grandchildren, I would look at these seriously."
Welwyn Hatfield Council's chief legal officer Bob Baldock said he has delegated powers to approve taxi licences.
But he denied councillors were in the dark.
He said: "Every month I meet with the chairman of the Hackney Carriage panel and say 'these are the applications, these are the ones I have concerns about, but on balance I've granted them, do you have a problem with my decision?'.