Local councils hand taxi licences to thousands including rapists and sex offenders

Fears public is ‘at risk‘ as local councils hand licences to thousands of taxi drivers from across Britain while failing to check their criminal records

Rapists and other convicted sex offenders have been given taxi licences by councils that failed to check their criminal records, it has been claimed.

Some local authorities have also taken hundreds of thousands of pounds in fees from applicants, knowing they did not have the cab ranks to accommodate them.

An investigation found serious failings at Rossendale, Lancashire, and a legal loophole allegedly exploited by Wolverhampton.

Bhangra music star taxi driver jailed for sex attack

British Asian singer, Dhanraj Singh was jailed for nine months after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting a young woman in the back of his taxi.

The chart-topping musician, who was a taxi driver by day in his hometown of Nottingham, assaulted the intoxicated woman while dropping her home in 2014.

The 24-year-old father-of-two was granted a licence in 2012, but was not licensed by the city council, according to The Times. 

He instead applied for a licence from Gedling council, despite not living in the area.  According to the Times, Gedling council granted some 492 licences in 2011 and 1,047 in 2015.

The court heard Singh, who went by the stage name San2, kissed and touched her inappropriately, against her will.

The council revoked his licence as soon as it was notified of the offence. 

Rossendale licenced over 3,700 tax drivers last year, despite having rank space for just 75 vehicles, while in Wolverhampton, dozens of minicab firms across Britain have been licensed as local operators, despite having no employees or vehicles in the city.

The vast majority of the drivers licensed by Rossendale did not live in the borough.

Many lived in northern England and the Midlands, but they applied to Rossendale for licences because the council was seen as a ‘soft touch’, it was claimed. 

Northern cities are understood to impose stricter tests and requirements for licences, with some charging higher fees, so drivers flocked to the small Lancashire town.

The investigation by The Times also found that councils issued thousands of licences to drivers, even when it was known some had convictions. 

More than 330 alleged sex assaults by minicab or taxi driver suspects were reported to police in 2016-17.

Councils are losing track of drivers’ criminal records or hiring drivers knowing of their criminal pasts, The Times reported.

In the past decade, 131 drivers have been found guilty of sex offences against passengers.  

Among them were more than 40 men convicted of rape, including black cab rapist John Worboys. 

One council in Nottinghamshire issued hundreds of taxi licences to men outside its area, one of whom later carried out a sex attack on a passenger.

Drivers with Rossendale licences have been convicted of offences in York, Milton Keynes and Manchester, the paper said. 

After a whistleblower raised concerns, Rossendale’s licensing manager was suspended and left the authority, it was reported.

In a change of policy, staff were told no licences could be renewed unless the applicant presented a recent DBS (disclosure and barring service) certificate.

There were calls for an independent inquiry into the whistleblower’s allegations last night. But the council said they had been investigated and were unfounded.

It said it was confident that it had not issued any taxi licences ‘to anyone who should not have received one’.

Assaults by Uber, black cab and private hire workers soar 20 per cent in three years

Reports of sexual assaults by Uber, black cab and private hire taxi firms rose 20 per cent in three years.

The concerning figures from 23 of England and Wales‘ 43 police forces show that 337 attacks were reported between April 2016 and March 2017.

Most of the reports were in London, rising from 142 to 156 in just three years, a freedom of information request found. 

Since 2016, Rossendale has introduced measures to cut the licences it issues. Wolverhampton council said it operated ‘robust and rigorous’ vetting and offered ‘the best taxi licensing system in the UK’.

A Rossendale Council spokesperson said: ‘Ov​er the last two years, we have worked to strengthen our approach on taxi licensing to ensure anyone who uses a taxi, or works in one, has the best protection we can offer. 

‘This includes the requirement for new applicants and renewals to pass a basic skills and local knowledge test, be enhanced DBS checked, trained in safeguarding and disability awareness and for all vehicles to carry CCTV. 

‘We have introduced a strict intended use policy on our hackney carriage vehicles and in addition vehicle owners who are not licensed drivers with us also need to be DBS checked. We also continue to regularly audit licences to ensure all holders meet these requirements.‘

Godling, Lancashire and Wolverhampton councils have been approached for comment.