A national database of licensed taxi drivers should be introduced to make it easier to spot those with a criminal past, according to a re-view into child sex exploitation.
Issues with taxi drivers had been highlighted in a number of similar cases around the country, the report found. In total, 14 recommendations were made.
Figures recently showed that hundreds of taxi drivers had been granted licences, despite declaring criminal convictions.
The independent review said it was “clear that taxi drivers picked young people up from schools and children’s homes and some drivers were directly involved in the abuse of the young people.”
It found that complaints about drivers were not always taken to licensing officers, and that licensing authorities were not told if a taxi driver had been arrested unless the driver revealed their occupation.
Several recommendations were made to address issues around taxi drivers, including the introduction of a national central database of all licensed drivers, indicating whether any had been subject to any regulatory sanctions.
Another recommendation suggested that Buckinghamshire’s four district councils and county council should improve the way they shared information with police, “by considering a special point of contact within Thames Valley Police for taxi-related issues”.
Bucks County Council said the report found “good practice and strong partnership working in place to tackle sexual exploitation”, as well as areas for further improvement.
The county’s safeguarding children board, which commissioned the review, wanted to ensure the “full spectrum of historic cases was examined back to 1998”, its chair said.
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said any driver with a criminal conviction should not be al-lowed to transport members of the public. “The problem is that councils set their own licensing standards and in some areas these are woefully inadequate - putting the public at risk,” he added.
“[We] would support a national database of taxi and private hire vehicle drivers. However, we believe that the government should go further by establishing a clear set of robust minimum licensing standards, applicable across all licensing authorities, that includes a mandatory enhanced DBS check.”
Mmmm... Mr McNamara, you took the words right out of our mouth. The National Association has been banging on for two decades about how the Home Office should come out with new guidelines on criminal offences and our industry; their last bulletin dates from 1992. Setting up a national driver database is a sound concept, but is totally toothless without unified national parameters as to “fit and proper” – and recognition of the fact that there are currently 374 different sets of “fit and proper” criteria for each of the 374 licensing authorities in the UK. If they were all the same, and those who committed any sort of sex crime or threat to life were banned altogether, there would be no question as to who should or should not be licensed.- Ed.