South Tyneside Council bosses asked to close taxi licence loopholes after incidents

Councillors are being called on to tackle taxi licence loopholes

Council bosses in South Tyneside are being asked to close loopholes in taxi licensing laws.

They will be told next week that a man who drove his car through a barrier to confront council staff after they twice refused to give him a taxi licence now has permission to drive minibuses.

David Cramond

Another driver who had his licence taxi revoked after he used booking records to inappropriately contact two women is allowed to drive larger vehicles for the same firm.

Both cases are evidence of a discrepancy in licensing laws, a report claims.

In a report to South Tyneside Council’s licensing committee, the authority’s economic regeneration director David Cramond said the system for issuing licences to taxi drivers - hackney carriages of up to eight-seats - is different to that for drivers of nine-to-16-seat vehicles known as Public Carriage Vehicles (PCVs).

He said to get a hackney carriage licence, drivers must produce an up to date criminal records check and can be refused a licence if they have convictions or cautions which the authority believe “renders the driver a risk to the public”.

But PCV drivers, Mr Cramond says are subject to such checks.

He said: “The applicant is asked to sign a self-declaration and, if they declare that they have no previous convictions, a licence will be granted with no further checks.”

His report cited a driver who got a PCV licence and applied to drive school children despite a North East council revoking his taxi licence in 2014 after he was convicted of harassment and was accused of harassing and having inappropriate conduct with a child.

Mr Cramond said: “It is important to point out that the majority of PCV drivers are likely to fit into the category of ‘fit and proper’.

“This report is intended to highlight concerns surrounding an opportunity available to unscrupulous persons wishing to exploit an opportunity which enables them to work in close proximity to the general public some of who will be vulnerable.”

Mr Cramond added: “The North East strategic licensing group which represents the 12 licensing authorities in the North East believes that this is an outdated view which no longer reflects reality.

“Larger minibuses, driven by PCV drivers, are now regularly hired out by taxi companies and are often used to transport groups, or individuals, in exactly the same way as a taxi.

“Even when transporting a group of passengers, it would be common for a lone individual to be picked up first or dropped off last.

“It is essential that the public receive the same level of protection regardless of whether they are using an eight-seater taxi or a nine or more seat minibus.”

The council’s licensing committee will discuss the report at their meeting next Friday.

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