Taxi and private hire drivers to face enhanced criminal record checks in England

Taxi and private hire drivers to face enhanced criminal record checks in England

Taxi and private hire drivers – initially in England – could have to pass enhanced criminal record checks before being granted a licence. Under the proposals, according to the BBC, every council in England would be told to carry out checks on all applicants.

Current guidelines allow councils to set their own driver standards, including whether to make the checks.

The plans also include introducing national minimum standards and a database to stop applicants applying to councils after being refused elsewhere. Currently, councils in England and Wales are “encouraged” to check criminal records and take a “strong stance” on offences such as sexual assault or rape.

The new proposals go further, saying the enhanced criminal checks “should” be carried out on drivers applying for licences.

Those with specific previous convictions would face minimum bans “in all but truly exceptional circumstances”.

Proposed guidance for previous convictions

Conviction relating to: Minimum length of ban
Crimes resulting in death Banned for life
Exploitation (includes slavery and child sexual abuse) Banned for life
Sex and indecency offences Banned for life
Offences involving violence +10 years after sentence ends
Drugs Supply: +10 years after sentence ends Possession: +5 years after sentence ends
Dishonesty +7 years after sentence ends
Possession of a weapon +7 years after sentence ends
Discrimination +7 years after sentence ends
Drink driving/driving under the influence of drugs +7 years after sentence ends
Using a hand‐held telephone or hand held device whilst driving +5 years after sentence ends
(Multiple) Motoring convictions To be considered by licensing authority

The Department for Transport is also considering whether cabs and private hire vehicles should have to be fitted with CCTV.

The cameras would be fitted with an encrypted system so footage could only be accessed if a crime was reported.

It might also bring in rules to stop taxi drivers from operating hundreds of miles away from where they are licensed.

In Scotland, private hire vehicles can already only pick up fares within the local authority area which gave them their taxi-operating licence.

Powers to regulate taxi drivers are devolved to the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Irish Assembly.

The proposed guidelines would therefore apply only to England, but they are also expected to be applied in Wales until the devolved Welsh Government sets its own statutory guidelines.

In Northern Ireland, applicants must provide an enhanced criminal record check.

Taxis minister Nusrat Ghani said: “While the vast majority of drivers are safe and act responsibly, we have seen too many cases where taxi and minicab drivers have used their job to prey on vulnerable people, women and children.

“These rules would make sure that drivers are fit to carry passengers, keeping people safe while stopping those with bad intentions from getting behind the wheel of a taxi or minicab.”

Saskia Garner, of the anti-violence charity the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, told Radio 5 Live she was “encouraged” by plans to update safety checks guidelines but said new laws – not just guidelines – were needed to protect passengers.

The consultation will run until 22 April.

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