A taxi driver who hanged himself in a Coventry park was on police bail for a suspected sexual offence
Tarsem Lal, 34, killed himself in Longford Park on July 3, 2017 at about 7.15am.
An inquest at Coventry Council House, on Tuesday, heard that Mr Lal was found with a suicide note and was on police bail at the time of his arrest.
The Telegraph contacted West Midlands Police to find out why Mr Lal was on bail immediately after the inquest but were initially told the force would not reveal that information.
We subsequently asked the office of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner for an explanation about why the information could not be revealed.
Today, West Midlands Police agreed to hand over the information and released a one line statement which read: “He was on bail following an allegation of sexual assault.”
No explanation for the change of heart, or the initial refusal to provide the information, was given.
The inquest heard that Mr Lal was originally born in India and had previously lived in West Bromwich.
But the coroner said Mr Lal was of no fixed address at the time of his death and no longer living with family.
He was 34 years old when he died and a statement from his GP said he had no history of mental health problems.
Mr Lal was a taxi driver and his car was found on nearby Cheadle Close.
The inquest heard that Mr Lal had taken his own life by hanging.
He was found by a Joan Pountney who was walking her dog at the time and, according to her witness statement, was “shocked and surprised” when she found Mr Lal.
A statement from PC Jones, of West Midlands Police, said a suicide note had been found with Mr Lal, along with his driving licence.
The officer added: “The deceased was on bail for offences.”
Giving his conclusion, Mr McGovern said: “Mr Lal was on bail at the time of his death. He was no longer living with family.
“He was a taxi driver, he was found by a member of the public in Longford Park at 7.15am on July 3, 2017.
“There’s no suggestion anybody else was involved in this incident.
The police have recovered a note. I’m satisfied his intentions were clear from that note.
“I’m satisfied he took his own life.”
He added: “My conclusion is Tarsem Lal has committed suicide. I offer my condolences to his family.”
Taxi drivers in Plymouth will see the cost of their licences rise by up to 20 per cent next year – and fear they may have to work longer hours or take a pay cut to make ends meet.
With the number of new drivers falling all the time, council bosses are trying to address a looming budget crisis, warning they are currently spending more than is coming in.
The changes will affect drivers of both black cabs and private hire vehicles.
Plymouth City Council says the fees have not been increased for many years and the accounts are heading for a deficit.
But cabbies are not happy with the change.
One said a 15 per cent hike is "completely unacceptable" when inflation stands at two per cent.
Another driver added: "The increased prices are disproportionately high compared with taxi drivers' earnings and inflation.
"To fund for the increase, drivers would need to overcharge passengers, accept lower earnings or work longer hours. This is unreasonable."
In 2015/16 there were 108 new private hire drivers – this dropped to 59 last year.
The council says its taxi accounts, currently recording a surplus, will be thousands of pounds in the red within three years if nothing is done.
A Plymouth City Council spokesman said: "Plymouth currently has one of the lowest licence fees for taxi drivers in the South West and will continue to do so even with the planned increases in our fees.
"We have not increased our taxi licensing fees since 2012 and are only increasing the charges to reflect the cost of the taxi licensing operation.
"The purpose of licensing is to safeguard the public by ensuring vehicles are safe, reliable and comfortable, operators are efficient and that drivers are 'fit and proper' to transport fare paying customers safely.
"We are currently reviewing the way we operate which includes looking at putting applications online. We will continue to make savings where we can, however the charges have to be increased to ensure we cover our costs."
Taxi drivers have blasted a council after being told they cannot have more than two buttons undone on their shirts as part of a controversial new dress code.
Transport chiefs in Stafford are set to implement the strict new rules which will mean cabbies will also be banned from wearing clothing printed with words or pictures.
The new dress code has been branded “way over the top” by frustrated drivers left baffled that they cannot have buttons undone on their shirts – even on hot days.
The plans have been drawn up by Stafford Borough Council in a bid to promote “excellent customer service”.
The new policy would also see track-suits, going topless or wearing dirty trainers and flip-flops also off-limits.
Cab driver Av Benning, 41, from Stafford, said: “If these rules came in, it would be quite absurd. It’s way over the top.
“Nobody drives topless anyway. On hot days especially, you need to be comfortable in the car.”
Another driver, who did not wish to be named, added: “I think the button ruling is just bizarre.
“And what’s wrong with having a logo or words printed on a t-shirt unless its offensive.
“These rules are just a waste of council time and resources. I have never heard of a driver going around topless of wearing flip-flops.
“And who on earth is going to check if your trainers are clean enough?”
Taxi driver Majaid Ali, 40, of Stafford, said he supported a “smart casual” dress code but added: “As long as they don’t start pushing through rules that we have to wear shirts, ties and trousers.”
Andy Swift, 52, from Haughton, Staffs., added: “I agree with the idea. But it’s going too far with the buttons on your shirt.”
The draft taxi licensing policy and conditions – which also cover vehicle standards, ID badges and disclosure of any convictions – have now gone out to consultation.
Frank Finlay, cabinet member for the environment and health, said: “It’s important that the public can have trust in the person who is driving that cab, and that the vehicle they step in is safe.”
Its proposals include a ban on flip-flops or mules. Drivers can wear trainers as long as they are “clean and smart”
No T-shirts, jumpers or sweat tops printed with words or pictures, except for the name of the manufacturer, firm or driver.
The “minimum” standard for male drivers includes a shirt or T-shirt, matched with trousers, jeans or ‘tailored’ shorts.
The standard for female cabbies includes a blouse and a skirt or “tailored shorts or trousers”
The code also states: “Shirts worn as open neck shirts shall have no more buttons open than the collar button and the next button.”
Fighting over a yellow cab is a long enshrined tradition on the streets of New York City.
But now a new service gives passengers in thousands of yellow taxis the option of making space in the back seat for a stranger, in return for discounted fares. The New York Times reports that shared rides are being offered through an unusual partnership between two competing ride-hailing apps: Via, which runs carpools in parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens; and Curb, an alternative to sticking out an arm to hail a cab.
The service is the latest effort to help the city’s troubled yellow taxi industry, which has steadily lost ground to the extraordinary growth of black cars dispatched by Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing apps. It is intended to give New Yorkers another option for getting around at a time when the subway system has been overwhelmed by crowds and delays, and to create a more efficient transportation network with fewer cars driving around empty or clogging streets.
In doing so, it will also redirect passengers who have defected to the ride-hailing apps for convenience and cost back to the yellow cabs they left behind. Yellow cabs made an average of 332,075 trips per day in March 2017, down from 393,886 the year before, according to the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, which regulates the industry.
“I think New Yorkers may be more willing to share than we give them credit for, especially if the price is right,” said Daniel Ramot, one of Via’s founders and its chief executive.
The shared taxis are currently operating in Manhattan. The service will eventually include green taxis, which operate in northern Manhattan and in the city’s four boroughs. Passengers can opt for a shared taxi through the existing Via or Curb app, and each party will pay 60 per cent of the metered fare for the shared portion of his or her ride. There will be a limit of two different parties - totalling three people - at a time in a yellow cab. The move to share cabs is not as new to New York as it might seem. There have been other initiatives, but they were limited and did not really catch on.
The new service involves 7,000 yellow cabs, or just over half of the city’s fleet.
“This is an area where we believe the private sector can excel in ways that have eluded our own best efforts, and we are pleased to see this new option available to the riding public,” said Meera Joshi, the commissioner of the taxi and limousine agency.
In recent years, ride-hailing apps have conditioned more people to the idea of sharing. Via, which started in 2013 with carpools on the Upper East Side, has grown to about 600,000 registered users in New York who pay a flat fee of as little as $5 to ride in a sport utility vehicle. Uber also has its own version of a carpool, called UberPool, while Lyft has Lyft Line.
Another app, Bandwagon, has been offering shared rides in yellow taxis since 2015 to travellers at the city’s airports, Pennsylvania Station, and the Port Authority. It has about 100,000 users and is working to expand its service.
The new service is voluntary for drivers, who do not pay anything extra to participate and stand to earn more from longer metered rides.
Samuel Pekoh, 62, of the Bronx, said he hoped it would “open the door for us to have more passengers.” He picks up about 25 people in a 12-hour shift, he said, down from 43 people just five years ago.
Taxi drivers in Spain went on strike recently in cities including Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia to protest at what they see as the exploitative practices of ride-hailing transportation apps Uber and Cabify.
According to TechCrunch, cab drivers in Barcelona staged a 24-hour strike at the end od May and then took their distinctive black and yellow cars to Madrid to take part in a demonstration in the centre of the city at midday, according to El Pais. Thousands of taxi drivers were involved in the demonstration, with some setting off firecrackers and hurling plastic bottles of water and eggs at police cordoning off access to Parliament. Some brief scuffles with police also occurred but there were no immediate reports of arrests or injuries.
A shorter taxi strike also took place in Valencia on the same morning.
It’s the second such anti-Uber demonstration in Spain, and follows the company’s limited re-entry into the market last year in Madrid, with a version of the Uber service that uses only licensed drivers. Uber has not sought to reintroduce the ability to hail a ride from non-professional drivers in the market. Nor does it currently offer its carpooling service, UberPool.
But it looks to be playing a longer game of attrition in the market - focused on lobbying for regulatory change so that it can reintroduce other services in future.
In the first instance Uber is seeking to get a cap removed on the number of licences for private hire vehicles - currently set at one per 30 taxis - to enable more Ubers to operate; hence taxi drivers being angry.
Anger has also apparently been directed at Uber rival Cabify, which has claimed it’s been the target of various acts of aggression in the market - including having nine of its cars set on fire in Sevilla earlier in May.
In a recent blog post on its Spanish website Uber argued that eliminating the cap on the VTC licences necessary to rent a vehicle with a driver would “reduce urban transport prices, create thousands of jobs and favour more sustainable cities”. Earlier it also published a report it had commissioned which claimed there would be “significant economic and environmental benefits” flowing from the liberalisation of VTC licences.
The background to this is that in December 2014 a Madrid judge ordered Uber to cease all activity in the city, following a legal challenge by a local taxi association on unfair competition grounds. Later that same month Uber suspended the UberPop ride-sharing service after receiving a court injunction - taking a rather different tack compared to its earlier combative default, when it had vowed repeatedly to ignore court orders banning its services in multiple markets.
Instead it has focused on complying with local transport regulations and only offering a limited service where it can while it tries to lobby for regulatory change.
In Barcelona in 2015 the city government changed the law to block Uber, bringing in big fines and the ability for police to impound infringing cars for three months - measures which have essentially kept the service off the streets. However, Uber did launch UberEats in the city in 2014, presumably to try to keep a pool of drivers ‘warm’ in the hopes of a favourable regulatory shift in the future.
But it ended up pulling the service later in the same year - saying it wanted to concentrate on working with cities to change the rules around passenger transportation services, and - in its words - “facilitate a new model in Spain that contributes to the improvement of urban mobility and offers new job opportunities to thousands of people”.
In a statement about the taxi strike, an Uber spokesperson said: “We respect the right of the taxi sector to demonstrate. But it is undeniable that urban mobility is changing very quickly across the world. We want to address a fair transition process with the public administration and taxi sector that promotes a new model of mobility in our cities, but also ensures that no one is left behind.”
La Vanguardia reports that the Spanish Taxi Federation has called for the creation of a publicly run digital platform to allow customers to book a taxi anywhere in Spain - to improve “the quality and competitiveness” of the service and to focus it on tourism as a strategic sector.
It also wants public-private funding to help drivers leave the profession and retrain. The group intends to present their ideas in a document they were to hand to Congress, following the march in Madrid.
Two more strikes are planned by Spain’s taxi drivers for July, according to Euro Weekly. A Barcelona taxi association spokesperson said the group has not ruled out an indefinite strike.