CLOSE THE CRIMINAL CABBIES LOOPHOLE Plea after 18-month taxi probe makes NO changes
CALLS are growing to close a legal loophole which allows dangerous criminals to be handed licences as cabbies.
An 18-month government review of the taxi trade promised sweeping reform but ended without recommending a single law change.
This means councils can continue to grant licences to sex offenders, drug dealers and violent criminals without notifying the public of their decisions.
Evil Christopher Halliwell was granted a minicab licence by Swindon Council in 2000 despite having a criminal record and serving jail time for burglary.
He is now serving two life sentences for murdering office worker Sian O’Callaghan, 22, who he picked up in his taxi, and 20-year-old Becky Godden.
Calling for new laws to apply to the whole country, Sian’s mum Elaine Pickford said: “Getting into a car with a complete stranger is one of the most vulnerable situations you can be in.
“If we don’t have national regulations enshrined in law, there will always be people who will use this to their advantage.”
Men with convictions for offences involving sex, drugs or violence are among at least 865 criminals who are currently allowed to drive and operate taxis in England.
Data from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust also showed one driver was granted a licence despite 36 convictions for crimes including ABH, theft and driving while banned.
Taxi drivers have also been widely implicated in grooming scandals plaguing towns such as Rotherham, Telford and Rochdale.
James Button, president of the Institute of Licensing, has helped devise a set of guidelines he wants the Government to make law.
The body recommends lifetime bans for those guilty of crimes resulting in death, such as murder and manslaughter, sex offences or exploitation. It adds that those with convictions for violence or drugs should not get a licence for at least 10 years after their sentence ends.
Mr Button said local authorities should be allowed to deviate from these rules only in exceptional circumstances and they should be legally obliged to make these decisions public.
He said: “There is no statutory prohibition on anyone being granted a licence.
“In most authorities, when someone has previous convictions which fall outside that council’s policy, the decision is made by councillors. They can be swayed by sob stories.
“It has always surprised me why there is acceptance of a level of criminality among a significant minority of the taxi trade.”
Catherine Ravenscroft, a barrister specialising in licensing with St Philip’s Chambers in Birmingham, said offenders who’d had a licence refused or revoked in one area were sometimes able to obtain one in a neighbouring town.
She said: “Licensing authorities don’t necessarily know you have applied to another local authority and there is no requirement for the applicant to disclose that.”
Saskia Garner of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust said: “We are very disappointed there are not more moves towards legislation.
“Unless there is clear guidance which is enforceable by law, there will always be licensing authorities which don’t follow it.”
The Department for Transport said most drivers provided a safe service but admitted the public needed protection after “appalling incidents”.
A spokesman said: “We expect authorities to enforce rigorous standards and won’t hesitate to introduce legislation if they don’t.”
Number of convicted criminals currently allowed to drive cabs