Our work Policy and campaigns Taxi and PHV Safety Steering towards safer taxi and private hire licensing In 2018 Suzy Lamplugh Trust released its research report setting out our concerns about the process and criteria local authorities use, and the information available to them, to determine whether individuals should be licensed as taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers across England and Wales. We remain concerned that inconsistencies in information sharing and licensing policy and practice continue to compromise passengers’ safety. Our research into safety checks for taxi and private hire vehicle drivers highlighted: Current taxi and private hire vehicle drivers have successfully applied for or renewed their licence despite having committed crimes in the last 6 years (since 2012). Licence holders’ convictions in this time included battery, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and speeding. Some licensed taxi and private hire vehicle drivers have multiple convictions. One currently licensed driver has over 36 separate convictions dating from 1973 to 2017, with offences including actual bodily harm, taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent and threatening behaviour. These findings raise concerns that current taxi and private hire vehicle licensing requirements are not fit for purpose. Suzy Lamplugh Trust was a member of the Task and Finish Group on Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing which presented its final report to the government in September 2018. In February 2019 the Department for Transport issued its formal response to the Report of the Task and Finish Group on Taxi and Private Hire and announced that ‘The government has set out its plans to introduce legislation and bring forward the urgent reforms necessary.’ (See our press release.) However, Suzy Lamplugh Trust was disappointed and concerned to learn that despite the Government’s commitment in February 2019 to legislate for national standards, the Government now plans only to issue statutory guidance. (See our press release.) We will continue to lobby the government to introduce legislation, as our research shows that while there are guidelines currently in place to help licensing authorities determine whether drivers pose a risk to passengers and therefore should not be granted a licence, these are often not upheld, are interpreted differently and are not legally enforceable. Read our full report Steering towards safer taxi and private hire licensing. Key Recommendations National minimum standards for licensing taxis and PHVs Suzy Lamplugh Trust does not believe that current licensing requirements for taxis and PHVs are sufficient to protect the personal safety of passengers. The current and only safety requirement for individual licensing authorities to decide if drivers are of a ‘fit and proper character’ is wholly inadequate and has resulted in discrepancies between the standards that licensing authorities set. We are therefore calling for a single consolidated legislative framework throughout England and Wales outlining clear and specific minimum standards for licensing taxi and PHV drivers to ensure consistency across all licensing authorities. Driver and vehicle standards should be set in secondary legislation by the Secretary of State and subject to a statutory consultation requirement, as recommended by the Law Commission in its 2014 report (recommendations 33 & 34). Licensing authorities should retain the power to set local taxi and PHV standards over and above the national minimum standards Mandatory access for licensing authorities to driver criminal history Holding a licence to drive any taxi or PHV vehicle must require compulsory enhanced DBS checks for all drivers; this is not currently a mandatory requirement for taxi/PHV drivers who are not contracted to drive ‘vulnerable adults’ or children. National minimum standards should require licensing authorities to carry out DBS checks on all licence holders at least every nine months when the DBS is fully updated by the police on all incidents relating to an individual. We are also concerned that licensing authorities may not be obtaining relevant and timely information about drivers’ criminal activity from the police directly due to the constraints of the Quality Assurance Framework and the Common Law Police Disclosure Provisions. We therefore propose a review of the Quality Assurance Framework and CLPD Provisions to reflect the need to disclose more crimes and behaviours carried out by taxi and PHV drivers than is currently permitted. Clear policy outlining which crimes and behaviours result in licence revocation and refusal As part of national minimum standards, Suzy Lamplugh Trust strongly recommends the development of a policy that clearly specifies which crimes and behaviours result in revocation of driver licences, and is not restricted to convictions but carefully considers the nature of each alleged crime and incident and the potential risk to passengers. Inclusion of taxi and PHV drivers as a regulated activity This would enable the offences under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, relating to a barred individual working or seeking to work in regulated activity, to apply. National database of licence holders A national database of taxi and PHV driver licence revocations and refusals, as is currently being developed by the Institute of Licensing, the Local Government Association and the National Anti-Fraud Network, would minimise the risk of an unsuitable driver being given a licence in one authority having had a licence revoked elsewhere. We welcome the introduction of this and believe it should mandatory for licensing authorities to consult this in all licensing decisions. National enforcement Licensing authorities should be given powers to enforce national standards for all licence holders operating in their authority, and not be restricted to those licensed by their own authority. No deregulation of licensing Suzy Lamplugh Trust is also concerned about the proposed deregulation of licensing requirements for PHV drivers as set out in the 2016 Tourism Action Plan. This would effectively allow individuals to have access to members of the public including vulnerable adults and children in a private vehicle, without any prior safety checks. There should therefore be no de-regulation of existing laws that protect personal safety within taxi and PHV licensing. Prohibition of taxis or PHVs for use by non-taxi/PHV licensed drivers The prohibition of PHVs and taxis for personal use by non-PHV or taxi-licensed drivers must be introduced in London. This is to prevent drivers who do not hold a PHV or taxi licence, and who therefore have not been subject to safety checks, from picking up passengers who may assume they do hold a PHV or taxi licence as they are driving a licensed vehicle. While we are aware that PHVs should always be pre-booked, research carried out by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust in September 2017 showed that one in five people (21%) think that minicabs can be hailed on the street, and a quarter of people (26%) believe minicabs can take passengers who approach them while parked. In addition, our research showed that over half (57%) have taken a taxi or minicab without asking to see the driver’s ID badge first. Clear signage of vehicles and drivers National minimum standards should also strengthen requirements to ensure that the public are able to distinguish easily between taxis and PHVs, and licensed and unlicensed vehicles. Similarly, drivers must be required to have a clearly visible badge or arm-band detailing their ID and driver licence type and number. All taxis and PHVs should be required to provide information to passengers including driver photo ID and the vehicle licence number, in advance of a journey. This would enable all passengers to share information with others in advance of their journey. For those who cannot transmit the relevant information via digital means, or for passengers who cannot receive it in this format, this information must be available through other means available to the passenger before they get into the vehicle. All taxis and PHVs must be required to install continuous video and audio recording CCTV and tracking devices to discourage behaviour that would compromise driver or passenger safety and provide evidence in the event of a dispute. Driver training Suzy Lamplugh Trust believes that a single legislative framework would also strengthen regulations on driver training in relation to personal safety, including questions relating to passenger safety, safeguarding and appropriate driver behaviour to be included in the licensing tests for all new drivers and all licence renewals. This should include clear branding of ridesharing journeys to avoid confusion with private journeys. Such training should have consistent accreditation to avoid inconsistencies and ensure an adequate standard across all locations. AWARENESS RAISING CAMPAIGN AGAINST ILLEGAL MINICABS Before our advocacy campaign calling for changes in the law to improve licensing safety, Suzy Lamplugh Trust also had a long running campaign resulting in the licensing of the operators and drivers of minicabs in London. In January 1998, the Trust held a special conference on the issue which obtained all party support with speakers including Glenda Jackson, the Minister for Transport in London and Dr. Jenny Tonge, MP for Richmond. Also unanimous was the support from the London Tourist Board, the Consumers Association, the Metropolitan Police and the National Council of Women. Sir George Young sponsored a private members bill to licence mini cabs and The Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act was finally passed later that year. Since then the Trust has closely monitored the enforcement of this legislation and continues to raise awareness of the danger of illegal minicabs and the importance of planning in advance to get home safely. In 2011, it worked with TFL, Travelwatch and other groups to raise the issue of the necessity of enhanced CRB checks being made available to all taxi licensing authorities as part of the licensing process. The outcome of this action is that enhanced CRB checks will continue to be used by licensing authorities in assessing individual applications. However, every year hundreds of crimes, including many rapes and sexual assaults, are linked to illegal and unlicensed minicab drivers. Our National Personal Safety Day 2017 focused on raising awareness around the difference between taxis and private hire vehicles through the 'Know Your Rides' campaign and helping passengers to travel safely.