Taxi and private hire vehicle licences are being granted to drivers with criminal convictions because there are no national minimum standards to enforce sufficient safety checks, campaigners say.
A new report from the campaign group Suzy Lamplugh Trust has warned passengers are being left at risk because the highest level of criminal checks is not required in law — it is only recommended in guidelines.
The Trust’s research into safety checks for taxi and private hire vehicle drivers revealed only 46 out of 316 local authorities were able to provide the Trust with detailed information about drivers’ criminal histories on request.
The report noted a ‘significant number’ of drivers highlighted in the research have criminal records, including convictions for actual bodily harm, common assault, speeding and drink driving.
It also recorded that at least 865 drivers in the 38 licensing authorities which gave details of drivers with convictions in response to a freedom of information request have successfully applied for or renewed their licence despite having a criminal conviction.
‘It is deeply troubling that there are taxi and minicab drivers with serious criminal convictions operating across the country,’ said Rachel Griffin, chief executive of the Trust.
‘Our research has revealed a significant number of licensed drivers with serious criminal convictions, and due to the large number of local authorities who did not respond in detail to our freedom of information request, we are concerned that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
‘The ambiguity currently surrounding what constitutes a “fit and proper” person with regards to taxi and private hire vehicle licensing is unacceptable. ‘Inadequate regulations can, and in some cases have already, led to passengers being victimised by drivers with a known history of unsafe behaviour and even criminal convictions.
‘Despite this, local authorities are continuing to take unnecessary risks when granting and renewing taxi and private hire vehicle licences. This must stop.’
Responding to the Trust’s research, Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: ‘Councils take their responsibilities to keep their residents safe extremely seriously, and that includes making sure that people using taxis to travel around our local areas are safe and secure.
‘That’s why the LGA is creating a voluntary register of taxi drivers, so that councils can monitor drivers that have been banned from operating in an area or refused a licence.
‘We are very keen to see that become a mandatory requirement, so we are also supporting the proposed Taxi Licensing Bill which will place this register on a statutory basis and enable councils to be able to monitor refusals and revocations of licences across the country.’