Freedom of Infomation Act statistics show up 82 offences

First published in News St Albans & Harpenden Review: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

Possession of drugs, assault and fraud are just some of the criminal convictions held by taxi drivers currently working in St Albans.

Statistics gathered under the Freedom of Information Act show the district’s 552 taxi drivers have 82 criminal offences between them - however, it is not known how many drivers are affected.

Convictions date back to 1980, with the most recent in March 2011. Twelve of the offences were for assault, including ABH and GBH, some of which led to jail terms of more than a year.

Threatening, abusive and insulting language led to a further four criminal convictions with another driver receiving a caution for “racially or religiously aggravated” comments.

There were also four drugs related offences. Two drivers have appeared in court for possessing offensive weapons, one a blade, in a public place.

A driver was also given a caution for soliciting for immoral purposes in connection with the Sexual Offences Act 1956.

Several thefts also appeared on the list with 11 convictions from shoplifting to taking a conveyance without authority. Three drivers were also sentenced for handling stolen goods.

A number of licence holders currently hold criminal convictions for driving related offences including failing to report an accident, driving while disqualified and speeding. Five drivers have appeared in court for driving without a licence.

St Albans District Council has the job of deciding which applicants should receive licences. A policy was introduced in 2008 to set out how the council should deal with convictions and cautions when considering granting, renewing, suspending and revoking licences.

The council has just finished a consultation into a revised conviction policy for taxi licences, which aims to put the details into plainer English so it can be easily understood.

According to the council’s existing policy: “Having a previous or current conviction should not necessarily prevent them from obtaining a hackney carriage or private hire licence.

“A person who has committed an offence and who is made to wait for a rehabilitation period to lapse prior to their application being accepted, is more likely to value their licence and act accordingly.

“However, there are certain offences considered so serious that they will usually prevent a person obtaining or keeping a licence.”

Claire Wainwright, a spokesman from the council, said: “Our policy is to consider the safety, protection and well-being of the public and to ensure all licensed drivers are safe, competent drivers who maintain their vehicles to an acceptable standard.

"When we are considering whether or not to issue a licence we consider all convictions.

“No conviction is considered as spent; all must be declared and all are considered. Our main aim when considering past convictions is to ensure public safety.

“The council considers each application for a taxi licence on its own merits, as we are required by law to do. Legislation states that the council may grant a licence only if it is satisfied that the person is fit and proper.”

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