Europe’s biggest local authority, Birmingham City Council, revealed how many of its licensed taxi drivers have criminal records after Freedom of Information requests from The Times.
Crimes committed by taxi drivers in the city include heroin and crack dealing, neglect of a child, burglary, assault, wounding, importing a prohibited weapon and several instances of drink driving and driving without insurance. Out of more than 5,000 taxi drivers operating in the city, 114 taxi have criminal records and Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood stressed it was a minority which needed to be dealt with by Birmingham City Council. He said: ‘It is important for the council to respond now this information has come to light, I am surprised they have not already taken action to deal with this.’
Taxi licensing specialist solicitor James Button said: ‘A taxi driver has enormous control over a passenger, and is capable of taking them anywhere they like for any purpose – abuse, robbery, assault or worse. ‘No other profession, trade or occupation in this country has such a degree of control over another individual. However, there seems to be a general acceptance that a level of criminality within the taxi trade is normal.’
In Birmingham and neighbouring Sandwell borough there has been a custom of elected councillors backing individual driver’s applications to increase the chances of them being approved. In 2014 in Sandwell, which includes the towns of West Bromwich, Rowley Regis, Oldbury and Tipton, the then deputy leader of the council Councillor Mahboob Hussain was censured for not declaring he had shares in a taxi firm which the authority regularly awarded contracts to. Chris Neville, Acting Director of Regulation and Enforcement at Birmingham City Council, told Metro.co.uk: ‘We take taxi licensing and public safety very seriously.
‘All applications for new Hackney Carriage or private hire drivers’ licences are subject to an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and all licensed drivers must be DBS-checked every three years. ‘Any applicants or licence holders with convictions for dishonesty, drugs, violence or sexual offences are brought before one of the licensing sub-committees, who then determine whether they are a fit and proper person to hold a licence.
‘It is standard policy that any applicant with a conviction for a drug related or sexual offence should be refused a licence, however an applicant can ask to appear before the Licensing Sub-Committee to consider their suitability to hold a licence.’