New rules to tackle taxi drivers who ‘pose a risk to passengers’

The use of a national database for taxi and private hire vehicle driver licensing will become mandatory across England.

Stricter rules for taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) driver licensing will be introduced to boost the safety of passengers.

A national database for England will prevent drivers who lose their licence from applying elsewhere without other local authorities knowing about previous wrongdoing, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced.

Around three out of four councils previously used the system voluntarily, but it becomes mandatory on Thursday.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “The safety of passengers, especially women and girls, is paramount.

“That’s why I’m bringing in tough new measures to ensure that when you catch a cab, you can be confident your driver will take you from A to B safely and without incident.

“While the vast majority of drivers are hardworking and honest, we’re taking steps to remove the few who abuse their position and pose a risk to passengers.”

Examples where the database has been successful include a case in Luton where a driver failed to disclose that they had previously had a licence removed over safeguarding concerns.

Their application was rejected after this information was revealed by the system.

In another case, someone who had previously assaulted another taxi driver in Southampton was prevented from regaining a licence in nearby Winchester.

Mandating use of the database comes under the Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safety and Road Safety) Act 2022.

The family of Sian O’Callaghan, who was murdered by a PHV driver in Swindon, Wiltshire in 2011, aged 22, welcomed the new policy.

Sian O’Callaghan murder
Sian O’Callaghan was murdered by a taxi driver (Wiltshire Police/PA)

They said in a statement: “To see this law being implemented and rolled out today across all local authorities is testament to Sian, it was in her nature to help others and this means so much to us personally.

“Her name is now linked to a drastic improvement in passengers’ safety within taxis and PHVs, whilst also better protecting hard-working, law-abiding drivers themselves.”

The database, hosted by the National Anti-Fraud Network, records all instances where taxi and PHV driver licences have been suspended or revoked, or applications have been refused, on safeguarding or road safety grounds.

All taxi and PHV driver applications must be checked on the system from Thursday.

Suky Bhaker, chief executive of personal safety charity the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, described the new requirement as a “milestone”.

She continued: “We hope this important step will pave the way to introducing a single consolidated legislative framework throughout England and Wales outlining clear and specific minimum standards for licensing taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to ensure consistency across all licensing authorities.”

Steve Wright, who chairs the Licensed Private Hire Car Association, a trade body representing operators, said: “This measure will help join up enforcement and compliance nationally between licensing authorities, to prevent the unacceptable movement from one authority to another of those who are unfit to be in the sector.”

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